The inability of US law enforcement agents to carry their duty weapons while in Mexico has been a controversy between the two nations for decades, especially as drug-related violence has escalated in various parts of the country. But Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is stirring the political pot by proposing a legal amendment that would allow customs officers, immigration agents, and VIP escorts to carry firearms while on official business in Mexico.
According to a report by BBC Mundo, the text of the proposed amendment relates largely to US agents and has already been discussed in the Mexican senate. However, it has been vehemently opposed by legislators and subject matter experts, many of whom believe a reciprocal policy in the US is a must before the amendment can even be considered.
The intent of the amendment is largely to expedite the export of trade goods, allowing customs inspectors to revise shipments in Mexico to prevent long waits at border crossings. It would also facilitate tourist and business travel, allowing US immigration agents to inspect traveler documents before they begin their trips.
Although this issue was addressed in US Congress in 1992 under the Federal Firearms Act, many US law enforcement agents have continued to carry their duty weapons in Mexico in violation of the law. It was revealed only a year ago that Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, who was murdered by members of Los Zetas near San Luís Potosí in February 2011, was actually armed the day he was killed. In November 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that US Marshals were carrying weapons while engaged in covert operations in Mexico.
The proposed amendment would limit agents to carrying firearms no higher than .40-caliber, but could carry more powerful weapons with permission. The odds that this proposed amendment would pass appear to be low at the present time, but developments in security conditions on the ground and the prospect of more efficient trade and immigration practices could motivate the Mexican congress to make a move in its favor in the future.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.