Bill to protect feds abroad advances

Last 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 safeguards for our people as they fight drugs, human trafficking and terror in countries other than the U.S.


Back in 2011, two federal officers were attacked by hardened criminals while they were on foreign territory—in Mexico, where to this day, as in many other countries, U.S. agents continue to work with local officials to combat drug and human trafficking cartels. 

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. 

Yet, last year, due to weaknesses in existing U.S. law, the convictions were overturned. Indeed, an appeals court determined that our law, in this situation, did not apply as the events took place on foreign soil. 

Last week, after years of mourning combined with heavy lobbying and strategizing, 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 and lawmakers in their corner on the matter all signaled their support and relief at passage of the bill—and are eagerly looking forward to having the new law’s tools available in the event of such tragedies in future. 

Support and celebration

“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 preclearance facilities around the world,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. “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 preclearance 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.”

"We are very excited that the House of Representatives passed the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officer and Employee Protection Act, clearing it to be signed into law,” Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), said in a release. “This legislation was initiated and co-authored by FLEOA due to its critical importance for our members.”

The legislation clarifies that any perpetrator that attacks a U.S. federal employee abroad can be held accountable back on U.S. soil. 

“We are also proud to see two other FLEOA priority pieces of legislation—the Protecting America’s First Responders Act and C.O.P.S. Counseling Act—also cleared by the House,” Cosme added. Cosme also thanked lawmakers instrumental in gaining passage for so much of the union’s legislative aims. 

"FLEOA is grateful for the efforts of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) who helped get these bills passed in the House,” Cosme said. 

“We are also thankful for our congressional sponsors, Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.),” Cosme emphasized. He also thanked a long and bipartisan list of other senators and House members, including Sens. Cortez Masto and Chuck Grassley and Reps. Henry Cuellar, Mike McCaul, David Trone, Bill Pascrell—for “working with us to create, advance, and advocate for these must pass measures to support and protect law enforcement officers and their families.”

“The entire FLEOA family would like to thank our coalition of supporting federal departments and law enforcement organizations, including the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, Department of Justice, the Biden Administration, American Foreign Service Officers Association, National Treasury Employees Union and many others for supporting this initiative and helping advocate for its passage,” Cosme said.

"Each of these bills address a critical need at a critical time for law enforcement in this country,” Cosme said. 

Some of the lawmakers behind the Zapata / Avila legislation also spoke out upon the bill’s passage. 

“Federal law enforcement officers know that their oath to protect our nation extends beyond American soil,” Sen. Cornyn said of the protection legislation. “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,” another key backer, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), said—adding his appreciation for his Republican colleague. “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. I thank Senator Cornyn for his continued efforts to protect those who guard our country.”

The bill is expected to soon pass the Senate and gain the president’s signature. 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.