Attacks on Border Patrol Agents ‘Relatively Stable’--at More Than 1,000 Per Year, Says DOJ

By | September 28, 2011 | 5:34pm EDT

In a speech in El Paso, Texas, on May 10, 2011, President Obama suggested that advocates for more extensive and formidable border fencing would next be calling for a moat--with alligators. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - The overall number of assaults on U.S. Border Patrol agents working to protect the largely unfenced U.S.-Mexico border has “remained relatively stable” at more than 1,000 per year over the past three years, while assaults have sharply decreased in the San Diego Sector of the border where a significant fence has been constructed along much of the border.

The number of assaults on Border Patrol agents last year in the Tucson Sector, in Arizona, and in the El Paso Sector, in Texas—where President Obama earlier this year joked about border-security advocates wanting a moat with alligators—sharply increased.

“Levels of violence directed against federal law enforcement officers (LEOs) along the Southwest Border have remained relatively stable over the past 3 years, but surged in some areas and abated in others,” says the Justice Department’s newly published National Drug Threat Assessment. “The total number of assaults directed against border patrol agents along the Southwest Border remained practically unchanged between FY2009 (1,056) and FY2010 (1,049).”

“However,” the assessment says, “sharp increases were recorded in the Tucson and El Paso Sectors, and there was a sharp decrease in the San Diego Sector. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the assaults demonstrate the growing frustration of drug traffickers and alien smugglers faced with enhanced security initiatives along certain portions of the border.”

According to the assessment, the assaults against law enforcement officers along the U.S.-Mexico border are categorized as physical, vehicle, weapons, or “rockings.”

Most of the attacks against law enforcement agents on the southwest border involve “rockings,” which are defined in the assessment “as drug or alien smugglers throwing rocks at Border Patrol agents with the intent of threatening or causing physical harm to them.” 

“Assaults against [law enforcement officers] between [ports of entry] most often involve rockings (76 percent in FY2010) and generally appear to be intended to deter agents from seizing illicit drugs and illegal aliens; however, some occasionally result in injury or death,” says the assessment. “In December 2010, a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed 10 miles north of the Arizona–Mexico border during a shootout with five suspects believed to be robbing illegal immigrants transiting the area,” adds the assessment.

This refers to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Weapons found at the scene of Terry’s killing were traced to a botched Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives operation in which guns were purposefully sold to known or suspected intermediaries of Mexican drug cartels in the hopes that that U.S. government could trace the guns back to their ultimate recipients.

In a speech on immigration reform delivered in El Paso on May 10, President Obama said, “[W]e have strengthened border security beyond what many believed possible.”

He also mocked advocates of more extensive and formidable border fencing. “Then they wanted a fence. Well, the fence is now basically complete,” Obama said.

“You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol,” said Obama. “Or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That's politics.”

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