U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas visited Fort Worth on Monday to present a copy of a bill that protects federal officers serving abroad to the legislation’s namesake, a Southlake man who was ambushed in 2011 by drug cartels while working in Mexico.
Cornyn sponsored the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act. The bill ensures that people who harm or attempt to harm U.S. federal officers and employees serving abroad can be prosecuted in the United States.
Avila was injured and Zapata died of his injuries after they were ambushed while working in Mexico as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agents. But the murder conviction was dismissed because of a lack of jurisdiction in foreign countries.
“Our federal law enforcement officials take an oath to protect and defend our nation,” Cornyn told a crowd of about 30 who gathered at the Fort Worth Police and Firefighters Memorial as a brisk wind blew and construction rattled in the background. “We have a reciprocal responsibility to them, and we know that commitment should not end where our borders end.”
The bill’s passage was the result of two years of work, Avila said.
“It’s bittersweet because it will not bring Special Agent Jaime Zapata back, but this is another reminder of his sacrifice and to tell people to remember his name, and what he was doing to protect our homeland,” Avila said.
For Cornyn, the bill was about “righting a wrong” and filling gaps in legislation.
“In a very polarized political environment, I guess you have to count your successes where you can find them, and this is one of them,” Cornyn said following the presentation. “But, again, I think this is part of a broader message to our law enforcement community, that notwithstanding some of the things that we’ve seen, in the last year or so, that the overwhelming majority of our community support them and their families and appreciate their service.”