WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Henry Cuellar (TX-28) today released the following statements after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 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.
“Federal law enforcement officers know that their oath to protect our nation extends beyond American soil,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This bill honors the service of our brave men and women in law enforcement serving abroad while ensuring that those who threaten their missions and lives are able to be brought to justice in American courts.”
“Federal law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every single day in service to our nation—they deserve to know that the United States will protect them from harm at home and abroad. The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act ensures that we hold all individuals accountable for threats or harm to American servicemembers,” said Congressman Cuellar. “I thank Senator Cornyn for his continued efforts to protect those who guard our country.”
The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act passed the Senate on May 28, 2021 and is cosponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Josh Hawley (R-MO). Companion legislation was filed in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Michael McCaul (TX-10), and Steve Chabot (OH-01). The House passage of S. 921 now sends the legislation to the President’s desk for his signature.
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.