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 Sun’s sister newspaper, the Ontario-based Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
U.S. officials claim the incursions are made to help foreign drug and human smugglers get 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.
Border Patrol agents say for several years they have reported sightings and confrontations with Mexican military inside the United States.
“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 were injured in the gun battle, and 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 that at no time in recent years have military personnel crossed the border into the United States.
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.”
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 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.”