Another agent for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol – the most assaulted law-enforcement body in America – was shot Tuesday in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.
The unidentified agent was grazed on the back of the head by small-arms fire from the Mexican side of the border. As usual, no suspect was apprehended.
Tuesday’s shooting came as attacks on CBP agents are spiking. Assaults — ranging from car crashes to fistfights to deadly gun battles — increased along the southern border by 73 percent in the past fiscal year: 786 versus 454 in fiscal 2016.
Last month, agent Rogelio Martinez was killed near El Paso. His death, and injuries sustained by his partner, are still under investigation. Amid continued confusion in the case, the FBI is said to be closing in on suspects.
The Rio Grande Valley Sector is the most dangerous assignment for agents, with 357 assaults recorded in fiscal 2017 through August. That’s almost triple the fiscal 2016 total.
In November 2016, a CBP agent was shot while on patrol in the Rio Grande Valley. The officer and a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper were struck by stray bullets from a gunfight across the river.
The Rio Grande Valley Sector has the highest volume of illegal crossings. Understaffed, patrol agents are frequently diverted to administrative duty to process unaccompanied minors, women and children. This further endangers the officers who remain on the thinly guarded border.
Slack prosecution of assailants isn’t helping. FBI statistics show that 476 suspects were identified in assaults on federal border officers in fiscal 2016. Only 19 had dispositional information available, most likely because the vast majority of suspects disappeared.
Of the 19 suspects in custody, seven were awaiting trial; four were fugitives; four were found guilty; three had their prosecutions declined; and one was found not guilty or had their charges dismissed. The FBI did not respond to questions about the remaining 457 suspects.
In response to the rising violence along the border, President Donald Trump has proposed adding 15,000 additional CBP agents and immigration personnel. That plan itself came under fire from the DHS inspector general, which criticized an understaffed, poorly trained human resources operation at the agency.
What a way to ring in the New Year.