WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) today released the following statements after their Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act, which ensures that individuals who harm or attempt to harm U.S. federal officers and employees serving abroad can be prosecuted in the United States and brought to justice, was signed into law:
“No matter where federal law enforcement officers are called to serve, they know that their oath to protect our nation extends beyond American soil,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This new law will ensure federal officers and employees serving internationally have the protection of the laws they have been sworn to defend by closing a loophole which will deliver justice and honor their courageous service.”
“I am excited to be at the White House today for the bill signing of the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act. Jaime Zapata was an honorable special federal agent assigned to the Laredo border sector. Mr. Zapata was working for ICE and Homeland Security Investigations when he was ambushed and murdered on assignment. His murderers were never brought to justice because the crime occurred outside of the United States,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Federal agents make great sacrifices in service to our country. They protect our homeland, our ideals, and our values. As a member of Congress, it is my duty to protect our service members during active duty and beyond. I thank Senator Cornyn for his continued efforts to protect those who guard our country and I thank President Biden for quickly signing this bill into law.”
“Almost 11 years have passed since Mexican Cartels ambushed law enforcement officers Jamie Zapata and Victor Avila while they were on duty in Mexico,” said Congressman McCaul. “The attack resulted in the death of Special Agent Zapata and life-threatening injuries to Special Agent Avila. This bill honors the service of both Zapata and Avila and would ensure that anyone who committed a violent act against a law enforcement officer overseas is brought to justice. Today, we sent a strong message that the United States will not tolerate acts of violence against its citizens or law enforcement.”
The bill is named for U.S. Immigration 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 legislation will clarify that federal officers and federal employees serving internationally are protected, and that the U.S. Department of Justice may try their attackers in federal court.