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U.S. House of Representatives passes bill to protect federal employees serving abroad

1 month 1 week 3 days ago Wednesday, October 27 2021 Oct 27, 2021 October 27, 2021 2:21 PM October 27, 2021 in News - Local
Special Agent Jaime Zapata / KRGV FILE PHOTO

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act Wednesday. The new legislation ensures that individuals who harm or attempt to harm U.S. federal officers and employees serving abroad can be prosecuted in the United States and brought to justice. 

"Federal law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every single day in service to our nation— they deserve to know that the United States will protect them from harm at home and abroad," U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) said in a news release. "The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act ensures that we hold all individuals accountable for threats or harm to American servicemembers. 

The bill is named for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, who Mexican drug cartels attacked in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 2011. 

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Special Agent Zapata died from his injuries, and although those responsible were apprehended,  a federal appeals court dismissed the murder convictions in 2020 on the basis that the district court did not have jurisdiction over the crimes committed against law enforcement stationed overseas. 

The new legislation clarifies that federal officers and federal employees serving abroad are protected and that the U.S. Department of Justice may try their attackers in federal court.

"Federal law enforcement officers know that their oath to protect our nation extends beyond American soil," U.S. Senator John Cornyn said in a news release. "This bill honors the service of our brave men and women in law enforcement serving abroad while ensuring that those who threaten their missions and lives are able to be brought to justice in American courts."

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