U.S. border agents under fire as Mexican smugglers fight back

July 28, 2009

Gunmen shot and killed U.S. Border Patrol agent Robert Rosas in California near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on July 23, the first such fatal shooting in more than a decade. In rugged desert where people smugglers and drug traffickers roam, Rosas was tracking a suspicious group of people near the rural town of Campo, about 60 miles (97 kms) east of San Diego.

After radioing for backup, he got out of his vehicle and started to follow members of the group as it split up. He was attacked, robbed of his weapon and shot several times in the head and abdomen.

Mexican police have rounded up five suspects believed to be coyotes, or people smugglers, and drug gang members, although the FBI, which is heading the investigation, considers the case unsolved.

While it unfolds, the probe into the murder of 30 year-old Rosas, father of two small children and whose memorial service is on Friday, is a test for U.S.-Mexican cooperation. Both countries are at pains to show a unified alliance in the drug war, underscored again by U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske’s visit to Mexico this week.

But Rosas’ murder is also a warning that Mexican organized crime is increasingly undaunted by U.S. law enforcement. In Mexico, well-armed drug cartels take on the army at will. Mexico’s escalating drug war has killed some 12,800 people since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched his army-backed crackdown on cartels.

Attacks are also rising against the Border Patrol on the U.S.-Mexico border as drug gangs, pressured by increased enforcement and the border fence, link up with people smugglers to use illegal immigrants to smuggle narcotics across the border.

Border Patrol agents often work alone in remote stretches of the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border and traffickers are willing to use brutal violence against them if threatened. Last year, Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar was intentionally run over and killed by a smuggler in a drug-packed Hummer in Arizona.

According to U.S. security consultancy Stratfor: “such deaths in the United States can be considered almost inevitable, especially considering that authorities report nearly 50 Border Patrol agents were fired on during 2008.”  In Tucson sector alone in the first 10 months of fiscal 2009 there have been 171 assaults on Border Patrol agents.

Disarming Mexican drug cartels, who have easy access to assault weapons in gun shops in U.S. border states, is one of the central strategies of the drug war but one that is making limited progress.

17 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

It seems that the Border Patrol is all we have to keep us safe,,I live in a remote area close to the border. the B.P. does a fine job here. they are under-gunned,,under staffed. but they continue to try and stem the tide.

Posted by richard harris | Report as abusive

I don’t understand why this issue is so low on Congresses priority list. The amount of corruption spawned by this lack of effort on their part is abysmal.
This lack of effort on their part forces me to wonder how much in bribes, graft, and kickbacks they are getting.

Posted by Clifford Graham | Report as abusive

The US Government can send troups all over the world to protect the rights of other countries citizens but does nothing to protect our country. Put a Brigade of US Army/Marine Corp on the border fully armed with the same orders they have in Iracq and Afganistan. Stop the insurgeants. Support the US Border Patrol with whatever force is necessary. Stop the cartels and the smuggling before the US turns into a war zone.

Posted by Neal Young | Report as abusive

The reason the government doesn’t fund the border patrol with better funds is that they don’t want a closed border; on the contrary. Ever since NAFTA was signed into effect, we have been getting closer and closer to the North American Union becoming reality. Why close borders when within 10 years when there will be no America as we know it. Check it out; Sovereign Mexican soil in the middle of the heartland of the United States due to the NAFTA Super Highway. This has all been documented in government documents. Look it up in a search engine and see for yourself.

“I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

Posted by Reginald Vanderburg | Report as abusive

Our Border Patrol agents are some of the bravest people in the world, there’s no one in Afghanistan defending Americans, there’s no one in Iraq defending Americans, they’re all at our border and as the original poster concluded are far too few in number and resources.

Bush pulled all the national guard from the border and Obama is continuing this look the other way approach to our borders, it’s revolting.

But when we have agents die by the name of Rosas it isn’t going to ruffle anyone in the mainstream media’s feathers, it’ll have to be someone named Michael Smith or John Williams.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

“Disarming Mexican drug cartels, who have easy access to assault weapons in gun shops in U.S. border states” What is this garbage reuters! YOu can’t buy automatic weapons in gun shops in the U.S. you stupid twits! They get them from ARMS DEALERS! The problem is the US BP needs to start shooting first and asking questiosn later!!! What is happening on the southern border is technically an “invasion” of the U.S. – So constitutionally WE THE PEOPLE have the RIGHT to defend this country. Thus WE THE PEOPLE can SHOOT THE HECK BACK!!!

Posted by Bill Gates | Report as abusive

This was a pretty good article, until the rather questionable last paragraph…

I’m a Canadian, but it’s truly pathetic to blame US gun shops for supplying automatic weapons to Mexican drug smugglers. Such weapons (automatic)are not readily available to the public in the USA and certainly not to any Mexican drug dealer who walks into a shop.

A more likely source of supply would be either via the Mexican government sources, or through the same international weapons dealers that supply every other criminal and terrorist organization in the world.

Do you really think that these international drug smugglers are not well enough connected and funded to purchase weapons from off-shore sources?

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

The real issue is that some government program, public or private, has a need for all the things at the boarder to continue or they would have stopped it long before now. The fence built in Korea spanning the 38th parallel (know as the DMZ or DeMilitarized Zone) was erected in a fraction of the time that the US is attempting to complete their smaller version here. A cease-fire treaty is in effect between North and South Korea, and yet a war on something or other is going on here all the time (Wars and rumors of wars)

Just fence them out or us in, it really does not matter how you look at it, it just needs to be done. Funny how the fence issue not under fire any longer, it does not serve as a smoke screen to redirect your attention get something else illegally done, completing the boarder fence will cause senseless deaths of this nature to be nonexistent in the future.

Let us protect the people on both sides and let Americans and Mexicans who live close proximity to the boarder. The same methods used in Viet-Nam, and Korea are being employed by the enemy of a free land . . . why is it that no one is seeing it?

Posted by unohoo | Report as abusive

Lack of security at the borders is proof that our government is allowing the drugs to be sent up and the guns to be sent down. Mena Arkansas remember?

Posted by seattle boy | Report as abusive

Hi all,

It sounds like this situation constitutes a clear and present danger to the United States. Perhaps this story and the rising violence will get someone to begin an investigative report and lead to more exposure. More press means more action as politicians are forced to look into this issue. If citizens want action then it might be a good idea to write to your Congressmen to take action.

TC

Posted by Tommie Carter | Report as abusive

It is sad hearing another human life is lost in this stupid war on drugs, I just hope that now that it was a US citizen life which was lost, Us authorities will start really stoping arms and narco-money coming to mexico, and not only profiteering from this whole nonsense by arming both sides of the conflict (which is a good business, but bad for human lifes and useless against drug use and production).

Posted by alvaro herrera | Report as abusive

One wonders sometimes if it maybe some of that drug money has found its way to the U.S. Congress? I find it insane that this country can not put U.S. troops on our border. Simply take them out of Japan , Korea and Germany bring them home with the billion dollars of equipment they have already and put them in the right places on our border: We need troops all over the world like a hole in the head- isn’t our nuke forces caapble of discouraging aggression?
Sometimes our goverbnment works against us and niot for us. Some of that big drug money is moving into the wrong hands!

The very idea that our government is not treating this infusion of thugs, drugs and weapons into our country as an assault on the United States is infuriating. And to imply that drug dealers can walk into a gun shop and purchase military type weapons is just irresponsible journalism. We have the abiity to protect our country, and as to why we are not doing so, well it must interfere with some agenda. If our government really wanted to protect U.S. soil, they could do it. How many people need to die before something is done about this blatent neglect of American citizens.

Posted by Caroline | Report as abusive

This wasn’t as strong as a written piece as it could have been for the situation. I’m also not convinced the fallen officer’s story was used in a way that rallies the people. Very few people with common sense and an education would believe the excessive violence in Mexico is contributed by American gun stores. Rueters should be careful to caluculate how most Americans (even moderate democrats/independents) don’t believe we have a gun epidemic. We don’t have to be NRA fanatics to have common sense.

Historically, the Mexican people have done very little to curb corruption, increase education and improve basic living conditions in their states that border the US. They completely control how the control runs and they vote.

I’m not sure the central part of Mexico even cares for the people that live along the border. Blaming the US ability to purchase firearms and/or shameful use of drugs as the primary contributor to the problem is misleading and fundamentally false.

I know many Mexican professionals that like to use these excuses provided Mrs. Clinton…but these are the same people that left their country to work in ours, tend to complain about both countries and never aspire to give anything back to either. I see a culture that lacks accountability.

We need a tougher policy on border protection and should consider deploying rotational support from the national guard and coast guard to continue pressure on the border; which inherently reduces drug/people/arms traffic.

Additionally, we need to educate our own citizens that drug use does indirectly support terrorism and feeds an unproductive lifestyle that causes society to pay extraordinary costs (extreme funding via taxes) to ensure its doesn’t get out of control and spill over.

Posted by Cdubya | Report as abusive

“but these are the same people that left their country to work in ours, tend to complain about both countries and never aspire to give anything back to either. I see a culture that lacks accountability.”

I don’t know if you noticed or if you just wanted a platform to share your wisdom about an entire culture but the agent who was killed was Mexican. I guess he never gave back either. Thanks for sharing your ignorance with the world. I’m sure it’s a better place because of it.

Posted by Lain | Report as abusive

We do not need anymore immature, little boys and girls , to be allowed to become Border Patrol agents, and carry an ego badge…….

And I just want to say, Good observation Lain……… I think we will see more and more non- Americans playing military guard…..Because (TPTB) know it will be difficult for Americans to do the type of policing (TPTB) want in the very near future…….

Posted by DawnJah | Report as abusive

It’s funny that “Automatic Weapons” freely available in US gun Shops shows up in this article. First a foreign national cannot lawfully purchase a fire arm at a licenced gun shop. Second the only “automatic Weapons” that a Us Citizen can lawfully buy without a very expensive and highly restricted license, are semi automatic fire arms. Ie, fire one round with each pull of the trigger. Let’s put the blame were it belongs, how about the f-ed up Justice Department that put two BP agents in federal prison for doing their job? maybe that’s why the BP is such a push over for these corupt Mexican Federali Drug dealers? You want to know where they get their weapons? US governnt sells them to Mexico and the Mexican government IS A DRUG CARTEL! Their drug war is not to stamp out drugs, just competition. Screw Iraq and Afghanistan, lets watch our own borders for a change.

Posted by 1776jedi | Report as abusive

[...] with our own Border Patrol or a town’s police force along the Mexican border, wait… too late: Gunmen shot and killed U.S. Border Patrol agent Robert Rosas in California near the U.S.-Mexico [...]