Fort Worth

Retired ICE Agent Recognized for Advocating for Law to Protect Federal Employees Serving Abroad

ICE agents Victor Avila and Jaime Zapata were ambushed while on assignment in Mexico in 2011

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A retired U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was recognized Monday in Fort Worth for his efforts advocating for a law that will help protect U.S. law enforcement agents and federal employees serving in other countries.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) authored the bill after an ambush on ICE agents Victor Avila and Jaime Zapata, who were on assignment in Mexico, in 2011.

This bill has been a long effort for Avila, a retired special agent with ICE.

"We had to change this law, to protect and bring those people that want to harm our employees and agents that serve abroad to justice,” he said.

Avila was honored Monday, with friends and family, and law enforcement in Fort Worth.

The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Act was signed into law in November.

Avila and Zapata were ambushed by a drug cartel while on assignment in Mexico in 2011. Their attackers were sentenced, but the sentences were overturned on appeal. The appeals court ruled that the federal court had no jurisdiction over the case because it happened overseas. This law makes sure federal officers serving internationally are protected.

"We are righting that wrong and I think filling that gap of U.S. law that nobody would have dreamed existed," Cornyn said. "So it’s nice even though it's maybe, it's a fairly narrow piece of legislation, to be able to do things on a bipartisan basis, get a presidential signature on it and see that justice is done."

Avila survived the attack, but Zapata did not.

“That is the bittersweet moment of this. None of this brings special agent Jaime Zapata back, but I always continue as I go around the country speaking, talking about border security issues, it is always with special agent Jamie Zapata in mind and in his honor,” Avila said.

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