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National Border Patrol Council has made an appeal to the Department of Justice for more body armor for Border Patrol agents, thousands of whom, the union says, are currently on the job without adequate protection.
The appeal, made in a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno June 1, came just days before Border Patrol agents were put on alert and told to don bulletproof vests because of a $10,000 bounty placed on their lives by a little-known Mexican group.
The Mexican group, led by Carlos Ibarra Perez, made the offer at a news conference on Monday in Reynosa, a Mexican border town south of McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
“If there are American citizens saying they are going to kill immigrants, then why can’t we kill (border agents)?” Ibarra, president of Citizens Defense Committee, asked reporters.
However, according to Daryl Schermerhorn, the Border Patrol Council’s vice president, “the U.S. Border Patrol has failed to continue the purchase of body armor for its agents,” leaving “over 4,000 agents working (in the field) without proper body armor.”
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials claim “body armor is too costly” and that “the expense is not justifiable.”
“After hearing you state at the recent law enforcement memorial service that providing police officers with body armor is a high priority for you, I can only believe that you are unaware that the Border Patrol is not outfitting its agents with proper body armor,” Schermerhorn said in his letter to Reno.
“Failure to act promptly in this matter could cost an agent his or her life,” he added, requesting that Reno advise him of what steps would be taken to correct the problem.
All agents are initially issued body armor once they take up field assignments, according to Nicole Chulik, a spokesperson for the Border Patrol. However, she told WorldNetDaily, Schermerhorn “could be referring to a program,” allowing agents to pick their own body armor, that “is not yet complete.”
Because of complaints by agents that Border Patrol-issued body armor was cumbersome, Chulik said, the INS adopted the “pick your own” program so agents “could get body armor that they were comfortable with.”
She said agents were allowed to pick from five separate vendors, but that because the “program is not entirely complete … (some) agents may just not have gotten the new body armor yet.”
Meanwhile, in McAllen, the nearly 1,200 agents that patrol the sector’s 281 miles of U.S./Mexico border were told the threat by Ibarra was serious. A spokesman in the area said Monday that the FBI is investigating the threat and trying to find out more information about Ibarra and his group.
drug lords have placed bounties as high as $200,000 on Border Patrol officers and federal agents before, but never has a community group done so, INS officials say.
The threat of bounty issued by Ibarra is only the most recent problem to ensnare U.S. and Mexican officials regarding issues along the nearly 2,100-mile common border.
The FBI is investigating the shooting death of a Mexican immigrant in Texas two weeks ago as he allegedly struggled with an agent over the officer’s gun. And Mexico has hired U.S. lawyers to determine if its citizens’ rights are being violated by ranchers in Arizona who detain, at gunpoint, immigrant trespassers.