Assaults on Border Patrol agents drop again
PHOENIX — Assaults against U.S. Border Patrol agents dropped again even as apprehensions of immigrants illegally crossing the border increased.
Figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, indicate that there were 373 assaults against agents in the 2014 fiscal year ending Sept. 30. That’s down 20 percent from the previous year and two-thirds from 2008.
Meanwhile, apprehensions of people crossing the border illegally were up 16 percent from the previous year.
Nearly all the assaults occurred along the Southwest border. The Border Patrol’s Tucson sector in Arizona had 99 assaults, the most of any sector, but that number was down 37 percent from the previous year.
Despite the decline in assaults, some agents say they are encountering people crossing the border who are more aggressive than in the past, according to a union representing agents.
“Agents out there are saying that the people we arrest are less likely to listen to verbal commands,” said Art Del Cueto, president of the Tucson local of the National Border Patrol Council. “They tend to want to run more, to push back against the agent, to be verbally aggressive.”
Juanita Molina, executive director of the Border Action Network, a Tucson-based human rights organization, said some agents’ perceptions are exaggerated.
“Do agents have a hard job? Absolutely. Do they encounter danger in the desert? Absolutely. But not to the level many agents think exists,” Molina said.
Two Border Patrol agents died while on duty during 2014, both in vehicle accidents.
The last agent to die in a confrontation, Nicholas Ivie, was accidentally shot and killed by another Border Patrol agent in October 2012 while investigating a suspected illegal crossing near Naco, Arizona.