07/05/14 (written by akearns) — U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issued a report on Friday, June 27 claiming that a Mexican helicopter crossed into U.S. territory the day before and fired two shots on U.S. Border Patrol agents. The incident occurred in the morning near the town of San Miguel, Arizona, about 100 yards north of the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. officials say the incident occurred as Mexican law enforcement officials were pursuing escaped kidnapping suspects and that the shots came within 15 yards of the border patrol agents and their vehicle. “At approximately 5:45 a.m. Thursday morning, a Mexican law enforcement helicopter crossed approximately 100 yards north into Arizona nearly 8 miles southwest of the Village of San Miguel on the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation while on a law enforcement operation near the border,” said Peter B. Bidegain III, a CBP official. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Arizona is currently looking into the incident.
U.S. and Mexican reports on the incident, however, are conflicting. On the one hand, U.S. officials say Mexico has issued an apology, according to Border Patrol Tucson Sector Union President Art del Cueto, reports Time. On the other, Mexican officials deny the attacks, saying a Mexican helicopter never crossed into U.S. territory. According to the head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency in the Attorney General’s Office (Agencia de Investigación Criminal de la Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), Tomás Zerón de Lucio, “The operation was on the border, it was on the border line, [and] we were 100 meters [away]. I do not believe that we crossed the border because we brought our navigators, and we were exactly 100 meters from the border.” El Financiero reports that Mexican officials claim the shots were fired in an operation in Altar, Sonora, during which officials apprehended 39 migrants, including 26 Mexicans and 13 Central Americans, as they crossed the desert through a ranch known as “La Sierrita.” The shots, officials say, did not come from the helicopter, but rather from the suspected migrant guides (also known as coyotes) leading the migrants north. Authorities detained at least three suspects in the operation, including the owner of the ranch and two workers involved in the migrant smuggling operation who were found in possession of drugs and firearms. According to El Financiero, officials believe La Sierrita has been operating since 2006, and during the summer season traffics around 400 migrants per day at a cost of $7,000 (USD) per person.
This is not the first incident between Mexican law enforcement and U.S. Border Patrol. In January 2014, U.S. agents confronted two heavily armed Mexican soldiers in military vehicles that had allegedly crossed about 50 yards into Arizona and drew their weapons. Despite a 45-minute standoff, the issue was resolved with no injuries. In 2011, more than 30 Mexican soldiers crossed the Rio Grande in military vehicles in an incident that was believed to be purely accidental.