HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Document Says Mexican Soldiers Crossing Border into United
Pubdate: Sun, 15 Jan 2006
Source: Los Angeles Daily News (CA)
Copyright: 2006 Los Angeles Daily News
Author: Sara A. Carter, Staff Writer


The Mexican military has crossed into the United States 216 times in
the past nine years, according to a Department of Homeland Security
document and a map of incursions obtained by the Daily Bulletin.

U.S. officials claim the incursions are made to help foreign drug and
human smugglers into the United States. The 2001 map, which shows 34
of the incursions, bears the seal of the president's Office of
National Drug Control Policy.

The document states that since 1996, Mexican military personnel have
crossed into the following sectors:

San Diego County, 17 times

El Centro, Calif., 58

Yuma, Ariz., 24

Tucson, Ariz., 39

El Paso, Texas, 33

Marfa, Texas, eight

Del Rio, Texas, three

Laredo, Texas, six

Rio Grande Valley, Texas, 28.

White House officials would not comment on the map and referred
questions to officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

Kristi Clemons, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security,
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, would not confirm the number of
incursions, but said Saturday the department is in ongoing discussion
with the Mexican government about them.

"We - the Department of Homeland Security and the CBP (U.S. Customs
and Border Protection) - are determined to gain control of the border
and will continue to collaborate with our partners on the border,"
Clemons said.

Border Patrol agents say they for several years have reported
sightings and confrontations with Mexican military inside the United
States, which the Daily Bulletin documented last year in its Beyond
Borders series about immigration.

"We've had armed showdowns with the Mexican army," said a border agent
who spoke on condition of anonymity. "These aren't just ex-military
guys. These are Mexican army officials assisting drug smugglers."

In one 2000 incident, more than 16 Mexican soldiers were arrested by
border agents in a small town west of El Paso, in Santa Teresa, N.M.,
after Mexican soldiers fired on the agents, said T.J. Bonner,
president of the National Border Patrol Council.

None of the agents was injured in the gunbattle, and U.S. State
Department officials forced the border agents to release the soldiers
and return them to Mexico with their weapons, Bonner added.

"If (Mexico) is going to put military across our border to threaten
our guys, and if their own government can't control it, then we should
be treating this as an act of war," he said.

Mexican government officials said they have neither seen the report
nor map and dispute the findings, stating that at no time in recent
years have military personnel crossed the border into the United States.

"I strongly deny any incursion by the Mexican military on United
States soil," said Rafael Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy
in Washington, D.C.

"When it comes to Mexican military on the southern side, I have no
reports of them crossing into the United States. That would mean that
the patrol got lost or lack of expertise and orientation. This could
be smugglers with fake uniforms as a tactic to confuse the

Laveaga added that Mexico's law enforcement agencies work closely with
the FBI, Office of National Drug Control Policy and other U.S.
agencies to assist in the capture of drug cartel members.

Further, Laveaga contended that wealthy smugglers can afford fake
uniforms and camouflage their vehicles to resemble those of the military.

"Some incursions do occur by smugglers both on the northbound and
southbound sides of the border," Laveaga said. "Whenever these
incidents occur, both governments have a mechanism to communicate with
each other to let each other know what's going on."

In the Tucson sector - where many border agents reported run-ins with
Mexican military - the U.S. Department of Customs and Border
Protection formally issued a card to agents with tips on how to deal
with incursions by Mexican soldiers. The Daily Bulletin first reported
on the card last year.

The "Military Incursion" card states that "Mexican military are
trained to escape, evade and counter-ambush if it will effect their

Further, the card asks agents who come across Mexican soldiers to keep
a low profile and use shadows to camouflage and hide.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said the numbers show that suggestions for
increasing Border Patrol resources or building a fence along the
border won't do enough to secure it.

"It is a military problem," said Tancredo, who supports immigration
reform. "We should commit the military to the border - tomorrow. I
mean, with armor and weapons."

Speaking by phone from El Paso, the congressman recalled his own
confusion and disbelief when Border Patrol officials first told him of
the incursions several years ago.

But the more time he spent at the border, the more he realized how
serious the problem is, Tancredo said.

"Down here, there are war stories where you have Mexican military
pulling up when drug traffickers are coming across, cocking their
weapons, challenging our guys," he said "Shots have been fired. ...
This is a problem here. I don't think anybody understands it unless
they're here."

Lt. George Moreno, who has been with the Imperial County Sheriff's
Department for 20 years, said he was surprised to hear about the 22
Mexican incursions reported during 2002 in the El Centro sector, just
east of San Diego.

"I've heard rumors that it's been happening," Moreno said. "A lot of
these types of incidents are dealt with at a federal level. It's not
brought down to our level unless it really concerns us."

Border Patrol agents also are the target of the international Mara
Salvatrucha street gang, whose members Mexican smugglers plan to bring
across the border and pay to kill U.S. agents, according to a
confidential Homeland Security alert obtained by the Daily Bulletin
last week.

Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minuteman Project, a civilian
volunteer group that has monitored the border since April, said
Congress must address the serious nature of the military incursions.

"That number is 20 times larger than even the Minuteman Project
organizers are aware of," Gilchrist said, referring to the 216
documented incursions. "But I'm not surprised at that number. There
are significant drug and human cargo cartels involving Mexican
military threatening Americans at the border. But our Congress has
turned a blind eye to it because what the American people don't know
won't bother them - that's how our representatives think."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake