The same day that two Mexican nationals living illegally in the United States allegedly gunned down Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega Jr. while he was fishing with his family in the Rio Grande Valley, another Border Patrol agent on foot patrol was hit in the head with a rock by another illegal immigrant and knocked unconscious, law enforcement said.
On Wednesday, two Honduran men who had crossed illegally into the U.S. jumped another Border Patrol agent on patrol along the Rio Grande, an official said. One of the men attempted to hold the agent down while the other beat him. The agent was able to gain control of the situation and the two men were taken into custody.
Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega Jr. was fishing with his family when two men attempted to rob them at gunpoint, leaving Vega dead, police said. (Photo courtesy of Rio Grande Valley sector Border Patrol)
Over the past several months, the Rio Grande Valley area in southern Texas has commanded media attention due to the large influx of children pouring across the U.S. border from Central America, fleeing violence in their homelands. Federal and state law enforcement officials told TheBlaze some of that violence is coming across the border too, in the form of drug cartel and gang members crossing along with the minors. Law enforcement members say it's the same violence that robbed Vega's children of their father, and it's being exported to communities throughout the United States.
Gustavo Tijerina, 30, and Ismael Hernandez, 40, were arraigned in Vega's death Tuesday from inside the jail library. Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said both were living in the U.S. illegally; Tijerina has a long criminal history and has been deported from the United States more than four times. Hernandez has also been deported.
Police have said there's no evidence they knew Vega was a Border Patrol agent, but officers who work along the border said it's more evidence of growing violence in the area.
"Our agents face threats everyday," said Chris Cabrera, a Rio Grande Valley sector Border Patrol agent and vice president of the National Border Patrol Council local 3307. "The issue is not only about the border but what happens across the nation. People with bad intentions cross undetected into our country every day. Some that are apprehended are released into our country as well. This is a recipe for disaster. Our Border Patrol brother was ruthlessly murdered, yet this is not an isolated incident."
Earlier this year, the Center for Immigration Studies published a report revealing that in 2013, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released 36,007 illegal immigrants who had been convicted of a crime and were awaiting the outcomes of their deportation proceedings. Many of those freed had multiple convictions. The report, which attracted significant media attention, noted that among those freed were 193 with homicide convictions, 426 with sexual assault convictions, 303 with kidnapping convictions and 1,075 with aggravated assault convictions.
Border Patrol Agent Chris Cabrera walks along the Rio Grande, where thousands of undocumented children, mainly from Central America, have crossed to enter the United States. (Photo: Sara A. Carter/TheBlaze)
The report also noted that "ICE officers declined to bring immigration charges in 68,000 cases of criminal aliens they encountered in 2013."
But the frustration among ICE agents themselves is also mounting.
An email circulated on an agent distribution list and obtained by TheBlaze featured one officer's furious reaction to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's statement regarding Vega's death. Johnson had said it was "with great sadness that I learned of the death of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega, who was killed in South Texas on Sunday evening while off-duty."
The ICE officer responded angrily to Johnson's "off-duty" remark.
"This is all you have to say to US about the murder of a Border Patrol Agent by previously deported illegal aliens," the officer wrote. "Thanks to the failed immigration policies of this administration something like this occurs and you don’t want to even acknowledge the actual events in your email to employees of DHS? Off duty makes it sound like a car accident, a heart attack, maybe something else……but really? Disrespectful at the least and downright shameful in my opinion! This is what we should expect from the head of our agency? The INA exists for a reason……ADHERE TO IT.”
TheBlaze obtained an email circulated among ICE agents from an ICE employee angered by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's statement regarding the killing of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega on Aug 3, 2014.
One ICE official told TheBlaze there is a feeling of deep resentment in the wake of Vega's death.
"Morale is low and the administration fails to see that it's their own policies that have created this crisis," the official said. "Vega shouldn't have been killed — it could be anyone. These criminals shouldn't feel that they can come back in our country time and time again without any consequences."
In addition to capital murder of an officer, Tijerina and Hernandez also face attempted murder charges and have admitted to committing other robberies along the Rio Grande, Spence said.
"A tragedy like this has a ripple effect," said Spence. "Now you have a wife without a husband, a children without their father, parents without their son. Can anyone imagine what it must have been like for those children to see their dad murdered before their very eyes?"
Cabrera said that in lieu of flowers, Border Patrol agents and the community have been asked to donate to a fund set up for Vega's family.
"Until the laws of our country are enforced we will continue to see such incidents," Cabrera said. "Contrary to what some may say, our border is not secure. The areas around the border are not the safest that they ever been. And the ones intent on doing innocent people harm, the drugs, the gangs, the cartel members, you name it — the majority are moving north to the rest of the United States. If we do not get the borders secure, we are in for even worse problems in the future."
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