The U.S.-Mexico border has seen far less violence against people living on its south side. And here in the U.S., apprehensions and even drug trafficking has been on the decline. But Border Patrol agents are facing a heated climate in southern Arizona where several violent attacks have occurred in the past few weeks alone.
Over the past month, Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona have been attacked at levels of violence that were far greater than the agency had previously acknowledged. In one attack, an agent was nearly maimed.
Figures from the Border Patrol last month show that agents had reported nearly 160 assaults over a two-month period. But since then, agents have been shot at in Cochise County, had to fight to keep their weapons from being used against them, and in one incident on Christmas Eve in Ajo, an agent nearly lost his thumb while making an arrest, Border Patrol union President Art Del Cueto said.
"It was a back-and-forth fight. The agent almost got his thumb completely gnawed off. The illegal alien fought him, two other agents showed up and he got in a fight with the other two agents."
The Border Patrol has declined to give further details about the incident saying the arrested man has still not been charged with the attack. The agency sent this statement in response to questions about the incident:
"On Dec. 24, a Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent attempted to arrest a suspected illegal immigrant in a remote area near Lukeville, Arizona, when the suspect became assaultive toward the agent. Two more agents responded to assist and the suspect was arrested. All three agents and the suspect were transported to a local hospital, treated and released. The suspect is being held on immigration violations. Assault charges are pending the outcome of the investigation."
Del Cueto said the agent remains injured.
"I’ve talked with him, I’ve heard he has some damage still. He doesn’t have feeling in his thumb yet but from speaking to the agent, the agent did explain he pretty much gnawed his finger down to the bone. The agent tried pulling his finger from his mouth and the guy just clamped down tighter," Del Cueto said.
The incident occurred a week after an agent shot a man in the leg in Douglas, Ariz., who took the agent’s baton in a struggle. A few days after Christmas, an agent was assaulted at a Border Patrol checkpoint southwest of Tucson. Then, on Dec. 30, a Border Patrol vehicle was shot at by two people carrying a rifle.