Senator Cornyn

Cornyn, Coons Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect U.S. Law Enforcement Serving Abroad

March 23, 2021

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Coons (D-DE) today introduced the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act, a bill to ensure individuals who have killed or attempted to kill U.S. federal officers and employees serving abroad can be brought to justice and prosecuted in the United States.

“U.S. law enforcement officers sacrifice their own safety for their fellow Americans, regardless of where they don their uniform,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “This bill sends an important message to our protectors that we recognize your service and we have your back.”

“This bill provides an important clarification to federal law and will help ensure that we hold accountable those who attack federal officers overseas,” 
said Sen. Coons.  “I look forward to working with Sen. Cornyn to get this bill enacted into law.”

The bill is named for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, who were attacked by Mexican drug cartels in San Luis Potosi, Mexico on February 15, 2011.  Special Agent Zapata died from his injuries, and although his murderers were apprehended, last year a federal appeals court dismissed the murder convictions on the basis that the district court did not have jurisdiction over the crimes committed against law enforcement stationed overseas.

The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act would clarify that federal officers and employees serving overseas are protected, and that U.S. courts may try their attackers in a U.S. court of law.

Additional cosponsors include Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Josh Hawley (R-MO).  U.S. Representatives Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Steve Chabot (OH-01) and Michael McCaul (TX-10) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.