U.S. Capitol (Photo by M DOGAN / Shutterstock)

New legislation will help protect feds abroad

Back in 2011, two federal officers were attacked by hardened criminals while they were on foreign territory—in Mexico, where to this day U.S. agents continue to work with local officials to combat drug and human trafficking cartels, as well as to pre-clear ordinary tourists for entry into the country. 

One of the officers—U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Jaime Zapata—was killed, while the other—ICE HSI Special Agent Victor Avila—was injured in the attack. In the aftermath, perpetrators were found guilty in an American federal court of several crimes in the attack and sentenced to life terms. But, in 2020, weaknesses in existing law helped lead to their convictions being overturned. 

This week, a bill passed in Congress that should significantly strengthen U.S. law governing the protection of American federal officers abroad. The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act is set to add significant protections for our people as they fight drugs, human trafficking and terror in countries other than the U.S. 

Federal employee organizations are forcefully signaling their support of the bill and are eagerly looking forward to it getting President Biden’s signature to make it law. 

“This new law will be welcomed by federal law enforcement who work outside the United States, including Customs and Border Protection employees stationed at 16 pre-clearance facilities around the world,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said. “It is essential that the federal government do everything in its power to protect the people who protect us all, whether at home or abroad.”

“CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists at pre-clearance sites perform essential homeland security roles by screening international travelers before they board flights bound for the U.S., so it makes perfect sense that they are protected by the same laws as their domestic coworkers,” Reardon added. “We applaud Congress and the administration for taking this step to ensure justice should any federal employee stationed in an international location be harmed.”

For more detail on the legislation, click here.

2021 Digital Almanac

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