The Nov. 18 death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez, found in a culvert with extensive head trauma, underscores a year that saw a dramatic spike in attacks against agents and the changing culture among those attempting to illegally enter the United States through Mexico.
According to U.S. Border Patrol data, FY 2017 saw a remarkable 678 assaults against agents compared to 403 the previous year, a 68 percent increase. It all came while the USBP is at its lowest staffing level in nearly a decade, a deficit President Donald Trump vowed to alleviate through an Executive Order immediately after his inauguration.
The 36-year-old Martinez, a four-year veteran of USBP, and his partner were found with massive head injuries late Nov. 18 in a concrete culvert heavily used by illegal aliens and smugglers off Interstate 10, some 12 miles east of their station in Van Horn, Texas.
The cause of the injuries – the partner survived - remains under investigation by the FBI but officials with the National Border Patrol Council assert they were unequivocally the result of an attack by assailants using rocks, a common weapon.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said one explanation for the dramatic spike in attacks is that agents are effectively doing their job, with the support of the new administration to lock down the border. With illegal crossings at the lowest levels in years, Judd said there is a sense of desperation, especially among criminal border crossers, to make it across and they are becoming more violent when they are apprehended, often in remote areas along the border.
“When we make it more difficult to cross, assaults go up,” Judd said. “This should be a barometer for the general public to see these are more violent and dangerous people attempting to enter the country.”
Judd also said agents are apprehending more criminal aliens than last year.
Then there is the perception to some, but what seems reality to USBP, that there is a sense of impunity created by dismally low prosecution rates against those who attack agents.
This sense is further amplified among juveniles who are typically recruited by cartels since they face minimal prosecution, if any at all.
In April, Attorney Jeff Sessions said he would not tolerate assaults against federal agents.
“I have directed that all 94 US Attorneys’ Offices make the prosecution of assault on federal law enforcement officers—that’s all of you—a top priority. If someone dares assault one of our folks in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it,” Sessions said.
According to information provided to FoxNews.com by the Department of Justice, there has been a steady increase in prosecutions filed over the last three years of assaults against federal agents, but nowhere near the total of assaults reported by USBP.
The other issue is the numbers reflect assaults against all federal agents, not just USBP, which further dilutes the rate of prosecutions. The DOJ data reveals 118 cases filed in 2015; 122 in 2016; and 191 in 2017.
According to the data, it appears that less than a third of assault cases against agents are prosecuted.
Judd points his finger at lingering holdovers in the DOJ from the Obama administration who allegedly continue to refuse to uphold immigration laws and those intended to protect federal agents.
“Attorney General Sessions is finding it more difficult to get the job done with these career employees,” Judd said.
In the face of erratic federal prosecutions, the agency has had to rely on state level prosecutions to address cases, Texas being one of the strongest states with laws dealing with assault on law enforcement.
In the case of Martinez’s death, a cause of death has yet to be determined. Among the speculation is that Martinez and his partner were sideswiped by a semi-tractor trailer, a theory Judd doesn’t buy. The other is that they tipped on the ATVs they were driving. Vehicular accidents do account for a large segment of agent fatalities. Then there is the prospect that they were attacked by illegals with rocks.
Judd said his agency is anxious for the cause of death to be revealed so those in the general public know how dangerous policing the border has become.
Two days after Martinez’s death, an agent in a remote area of Sasabe, Ariz. was assaulted by a 22-year-old Mexican national illegally entering the U.S.
As recently as Sunday, a 25-year-old Mexican man was charged with assaulting an agent after he attacked a Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent east of Nogales, Ariz. The agent attempted to arrest a suspect found scaling the wall but the suspect resisted, kicking the agent multiple times in the head. Despite the assault, the agent was able to get the combative subject off the fence to complete the arrest before being evaluated at a local hospital for his injuries. The Mexican national was processed for immigration violations and charged with assault.
In January an undocumented alien assaulted and attempted to stab a U.S. Border Patrol agent near Three Points, Ariz. During the struggle, the subject pulled out a knife and attempted to stab the agent. The knife struck the agent’s handheld radio, which was attached to his body armor. The agent called for assistance while continuing to struggle with the subject.
On October 25, an off-duty agent was shot at while driving his vehicle in El Paso. Two suspects were arrested the following week.
The only other fatality directly associated with an assault on an agent occurred on May 24, when Agent Isaac Morales was assaulted in El Paso, Texas. His assailant was apprehended.