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February 18, 2011

Statement of Bennie G. Thompson Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security Recognizing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agents Zapata and Avila

Today, I rise to express my sincere condolences about a reprehensible attack on two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers earlier this week in Mexico, while driving between Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico. I honor the sacrifice of Special Agent Jaime J. Zapata, who lost his life and Special Agent Victor Avila, who is continuing to recover from injuries sustained during the attack. In 2006, Special Agent Zapata began his career with ICE in Laredo, Texas as part of the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit and as a member of the Border Enforcement Security Task Force.

At the time of his death, he was detailed to ICE's Attaché office in Mexico City. Special Agent Zapata began his tenure at the Department of Homeland Security as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Yuma, Arizona. Law enforcement and border security were early passions for this Brownsville, Texas native, as he graduated from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. I understand that his fellow agent, Special Agent Victor Avila, was injured in the attack and is now recovering in his home. My thoughts and prayers are with Special Agent Victor Avila, and I am hoping and praying for his healthy recovery.

These agents were two of the hundreds of ICE personnel around the globe. Every day, committed agents like Special Agents Zapata and Avila collaborate with their foreign counterparts to dismantle criminal organizations that pose a border security and law enforcement threat to the United States. Our Nation is fortunate to have the men and women of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement keeping us safe and secure. Their bravery and dedication serve as a fine example for all Americans.

I know the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement groups are working closely with the authorities in Mexico to ensure that the perpetrators of this attack are identified and brought to justice. To the family of Special Agent Zapata as well as his ICE brothers and sisters, I offer my deepest sympathies. His sacrifice in service for our country and your family's enormous loss are not, and will not, be forgotten. And to Special Agent Avila, I join with my colleagues at the Committee on Homeland Security, to express my sincere wish for a full recovery and appreciation for your service to our country.

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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978