Texas Senator John Cornyn took to the floor of the U.S. Senate last week to join in the call to have the murder of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega classified as a line-of-duty death. The move, if approved, would bring additional benefits to the family left behind after this agent was gunned down during a robbery attempt.
Breitbart Texas has reported extensively on the August, 2014, murder of Agent Vega. The morning after he was killed, Breitbart Texas’ Ildefonso Ortiz reported that two men would be facing capital murder charges in connection to Vega’s homicide. Vega had been fishing with his family in a secluded location about 30 miles from the Texas/Mexico border when two men came out of the brush, firing shots. Agent Vega managed to return fire on the gunman but was killed in the process. Vega’s father was also shot during the exchange.
Vega was not officially on duty at the time; however, Border Patrol agents, like most law enforcement officers, are considered to be on duty all the time. This would be akin to an off-duty police officer in a convenience store when a robbery begins. He would be required to take action that could lead to his death.
“What was supposed to be a normal weekend fishing with Javier and his family instead turned deadly,” said Senator Cornyn on the floor of the Senate. “Who were the killers? Well, they were two illegal immigrant criminals who had repeatedly violated our laws. Both had been deported multiple times but managed to repeatedly find their way back into the country, even after committing a long list of crimes. In fact, according to some witnesses, these two men had been terrorizing the community for months.”
Senator Cornyn, along with U.S. Representative Filemon Vela, have written a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner R. Gill Kerlikowske to request that Vega’s death be classified as a line-of-duty death, according to a statement from the Senator’s office obtained by Breitbart Texas.
“America’s law enforcement community, including heroes like Harvey, put their lives on the line every day to protect our citizens,” Cornyn stated. “They work tirelessly to try to protect our safety. And I hope our colleagues will come to their senses and stand up for those who provide for our public safety and not contribute to a situation where other families like the Vega family will lose a loved one to the sort of career criminals that I was referring to earlier.”
Last month, Breitbart Texas’ managing director Brandon Darby reported Senator John McCain’s efforts to attempt to have Vega’s death re-classified. McCain was appearing on a National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) Green Line podcast. NBPC Vice President Shawn Moran asked the Arizona senator if he thought Vega’s death should be considered a line-of-duty death.
“Yes,” McCain responded. “And could I say that it’s a tragedy and obviously our prayers, sympathy are with the family. Like the military, our Border Patrol agents are on duty 24 hours a day. Is there anyone who disagrees with that? I haven’t met. So it seems to me, like the military, that it’s clear Agent Vega was killed in the line-of-duty.”
“We understand that those that killed him had been arrested and crossed the border illegally and had previously been deported multiple times,” McCain continued.” The local sheriff believes the suspects were connected to cartels or other criminal gangs.”
Darby asked Moran about the significance of having Vega’s murder classified as a line-of-duty death. “The biggest thing that it would mean is that it would open up his family to the availability of the public safety officers’ benefit from the Department of Justice and other grants,” Moran responded.” Agent Vega would also be honored at Police Week and have his name engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial.”
“Javier Vega was a hero who stood up for these values and upheld his oath to protect and serve by making the ultimate sacrifice,” wrote Senator Cornyn and Congressman Vela in their letter to the CBP commissioner. “By failing to approve this classification for more than fourteen months, your agency has prevented Agent Vega’s family from obtaining much-needed benefits that he earned as a law enforcement officer who gave everything to protect his community from violent criminals.”
The full text of the letter is offered below:
October 30, 2015
The Honorable R. Gil Kerlikowske
Commissioner, United States Customs and Border Protection
United States Department of Homeland Security
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
Washington, DC 20229
Commissioner Kerlikowske —
On August 3, 2014, United States Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega Jr. was murdered while fishing with his family in Raymondville, Texas. According to witness reports, Agent Vega was shot at point-blank range while defending his family and community during an attempted armed robbery. The two men arrested for this murder, Ismael Hernandez and Gustavo Tijerina, had been deported multiple times and are suspected of having ties to transnational organized crime. In fact, Mr. Tijerina has an extensive criminal history that includes the unlawful carrying of a weapon, domestic violence, driving while intoxicated, and possession of a controlled substance.
The brave men and women of American law enforcement are never off-duty—they stand ready to protect us from threats to our safety and security at all times. In recognition of this fact, the President and the United States Congress enacted a number of laws that encourage off-duty law enforcement agents to respond to violent crimes in progress, incapacitate criminals, and save lives. Javier Vega was a hero who stood up for these values and upheld his oath to protect and serve by making the ultimate sacrifice.
Despite Agent Vega’s courageous actions, it has come to our attention that United States Customs and Border Protection has failed to classify his death as a line-of-duty fatality. By failing to approve this classification for more than fourteen months, your agency has prevented Agent Vega’s family from obtaining much-needed benefits that he earned as a law enforcement officer who gave everything to protect his community from violent criminals. Your agency’s failure to classify this death as a line-of-duty fatality would dishonor the sacrifices that Agent Vega made throughout his career and threaten to undermine the sacrifices of the tens of thousands of men and women who put their life on the line every single day as United States Border Patrol Agents. It has come to our attention that the National Border Patrol Council has passed a resolution calling on United States Customs and Border Protection to classify Agent Vega’s death as occurring in the line-of-duty. We join the National Border Patrol Council’s call and ask that you swiftly honor Agent Vega and his family by officially classifying his death as a line-of-duty fatality.
JOHN CORNYN FILEMON VELA
United States Senator Member of Congress
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.