Border Report

Neighbors, lawmakers urge support for Border Patrol after rise in migrant smuggling, recent attacks from Mexico

Border Report

Agents in El Paso shot at twice in three days following threat from Juarez migrant smugglers

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Bullets have been fired from Mexico at U.S. Border Patrol agents in the El Paso Sector twice in the span of three days. That’s something that’s causing concern among residents of El Paso’s Lower Valley, who fear not only for the lives of the agents near the Rio Grande, but also that a stray bullet may hit nearby homes.

In the pre-dawn hours of Monday, a border agent from the Ysleta Station took cover behind his vehicle after hearing gunshots. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, five rounds were fired from Mexico toward the agent. None of the bullets struck the agent or his vehicle near the Midway Drive exit off U.S. Highway 375.

Early last Friday, 20 shots were fired at another border agent from the Ysleta Station. The agent also took cover and was not hit by the shots.

The attacks have come roughly a month after someone in Juarez hung a banner from a bridge stating that “bullets can cross the river and the wall.”

The threat was made days after U.S. and Mexican officials disclosed the photographs of the border’s 10 Most Wanted criminals. Border Patrol Sector Chief Gloria I. Chavez focused on an individual on the list (No. 2) she says is responsible for much of the migrant smuggling activity in the region.

The list of the most wanted criminals on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Border Report photo)

“I am concerned for (the agents). I know they’re armed and have training, but they’re out in the open on the (river) levee. […] They are so exposed out there,” said a resident of Elder Street, who declined to be identified or recorded.

The man said he has seen migrants come and go through the neighborhood over the past few years, but shootings are new and unwanted.

Another resident, who identified only as Wayne and described himself as ex-military, said border agents need more protection and called on Mexico to bring criminals there under control.

Law enforcement officials in Juarez have sent mixed messages so far. A Chihuahua state law enforcement official initially denied there had been an attack against the Border Patrol despite the finding of bullet casings from a .223-caliber rifle in the area. But on Tuesday, the FBI reported that Mexican authorities are assisting in the investigation.  

U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, said Border Patrol agents need immediate help, given an increase in migrant smuggling activity that’s brought more than one million unauthorized migrants into the United States this fiscal year.

U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, talks about the immigration crisis at the Southern Border. (File photo)

“Our Border Patrol has seen a major increase of every type of crime at our border: Drug trafficking, theft, property damage, human smuggling and gun violence,” Gonzales said. “Every day our Border Patrol agents are putting their lives at risk to protect our border and, sadly, we’ve seen almost no reinforcement or support for them from the Biden administration.”

Gonzales is calling for “immediate support on the ground” for the Border Patrol given increased migrant activity and recent attacks.

On the New Mexico side of the El Paso Border Patrol Sector, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico, also says border agents need help. She is calling on New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to deploy the New Mexico National Guard to the border.

Meantime, in the El Paso neighborhood near Riverside Middle School, residents look at the steel bollards border wall less than 1,000 feet away and wonder if they’re safe.

“I’m not too worried about a stray bullet because my house is in the middle of the block, but my neighbors over there,” a resident of Teakwood Street says, pointing to the southern edge of the neighborhood, “they have reason to worry.”

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