Former Undercover Agent on Attack: I'm Not Surprised
POSTED: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 - 11:26pm
UPDATED: Saturday, February 19, 2011 - 7:45am
EL PASO- The attack on ICE agents in Mexico highlights the dangers of working abroad as a federal agent. NewsChannel 9's Matt Rivers sat down with one man who knows those dangers first hand.
The reality of working in Mexico as a law enforcement officer is scary. But doing so as an American, as someone not from the country, makes the job even more treacherous.
One former undercover agent in the Border Patrol sat down with us to explain why.
"It was very, very dangerous," says Jesus Carrillo, a former Border Patrol agent. He spent years in Mexico, battling drug cartels undercover for the Border Patrol.
"It's got two strikes against you. One, you're law enforcement. Secondly, you are an American citizen," Carrillo says.
Neither of which makes you popular in Mexico. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement currently has 30 agents stationed throughout Mexico, providing support to the Mexican government in it's war against the cartels.
"They really, they don't take it very kindly for you to be working in foreign soil," Carrillo says.
But that's exactly what Special Agents Avila and Zapata were doing as they drove back from a meeting towards Mexico City.
Sources say the two were followed for sometime by a pair of cars, before they were ambushed. When Carrillo heard that information, he wasn't surprised.
Intricate surveillance used by the cartels, Carrillo says, gave them the upper hand over law enforcement.
"If they were followed, I can assure you that they were targeted by the cartels. They knew exactly who they were," Carrillo says.
Common belief is that being an American agent abroad may help keep you safe. But Carrillo, a 30-year veteran of foreign operations, says if the cartels want you killed, it doesn't matter where you're from.
"Being an American citizen is not going to cover you, it's not going to protect you at all. Because sometimes being an American is being a target," says the former Border Patrol agent.
As Special Agent Victor Avila recovers tonight, fellow ICE agents continue to work in 47 different countries around the world.
It's a job not many want, and Carrillo says those who do should be admired.
"Those agents, I can tell you, they're very brave. If you take a poll, I can assure you that there are very few that are willing to go out there and do it," he says.
A joint operation between the U.S. and Mexico will investigate the attack. With one federal agent dead and another wounded, Carrillo fully expects the US government will find and prosecute those responsible.