Two U.S. Border Patrol agents were recognized for their courage during a ceremony where they were presented the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery. The agents were recognized for their actions in saving an illegal immigrant from rapid currents during a 2014 Rio Grande River border crossing.
Border Patrol Agents Mark Garcia and Josue Gonzalez were presented with the awards by Del Rio Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Matthew J. Hudak, Laredo Sector Division Chief Anthony Scott Good, and Ana Garcia who was representing U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) as his south Texas regional director. The Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery was created in 2008 by Congress to honor federal, state, and local law enforcement officers for exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty.
The actions by the agents leading to their recognition arose from an attempt by an illegal immigrant to cross the Rio Grande River during a time when the river was swollen from heavy rains, causing exceptionally strong currents. Gonzales and Garcia, along with other agents assigned to the Eagle Pass, Texas, area received a report of a large group of adults and children attempting to cross the river, information provided by U.S. Border Patrol Spokesman Dennis Smith to Breitbart Texas revealed.
When the agents arrived, they observed several of the illegal immigrants were “floating uncontrollably” downriver. The immigrants who floated downstream were safely rounded up and arrested by Border Patrol agents. Others were stranded on a sandbar under the Port of Entry bridge. Breitbart Texas reported on the action by the agents in a May 2014 article.
Garcia and Gonzalez observed a woman clinging to a bridge pillar in the middle of the river. They first attempted to throw a rope to the woman. When that failed, the agents waded into the rapidly-moving, chest-deep water but were unable to reach her. After becoming exhausted, the agents exited the river and looked for another strategy to rescue the woman. The two agents tied ropes around their waists and re-entered the river further upstream. Other agents held onto the ropes to prevent their being swept away by the currents. They were eventually able to reach the woman in distress.
The agents on the bank pulled the woman and the two agents back to the bank. She was safely removed from the river.
“This heroic act measures the true character and fortitude of Agents Garcia and Gonzalez in the face of danger,” Chief Hudak said in a written statement. “Without regard for their own safety, these agents risked their lives for the sake of another and that is commendable.”
The qualifications to receive the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Honor are listed by the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs website as:
- Sustained a physical injury while –
- Engaged in the lawful duties of the individual, and
- Performing an act characterized as bravery by the agency head who makes the nomination, and
- Being at personal risk; or
- Although not injured, performed an act characterized as bravery by the agency head who makes the nomination that placed the individual at risk of serious physical injury or death.