It might have seemed like a Three Stooges routine — except the stakes were much higher for Jose Quinonez-Lopez, an alleged migrant smuggler, and the Border Patrol agent he was trying to escape from.
After a chase, the agent had caught up with Mr. Quinonez-Lopez and was straddling him to try to make an arrest when the smuggling suspect began jabbing the agent in the genitals. The agent moved his hand to block the jabs, and Mr. Quinonez-Lopez then poked the agent in the face. When the agent moved to protect his face, the suspect then ripped at his genitals again.
The agent wasn’t seriously hurt, but Mr. Quinonez-Lopez’s attack was so brutal that he’d managed to tear through the agent’s uniform pants and even his underwear, authorities said in documents filing criminal charges against the suspect.
The Nov. 15 incident is part of a growing number of attacks on agents at the border, as migrants and smugglers are increasingly ready to fight rather than flee or give up.
October saw 61 Border Patrol agents assaulted along the southern border, in 48 incidents, or more than any month since the start of fiscal year 2020. By contrast, last October had just 28 incidents and October 2021 tallied just 16 assault incidents on agents at the southern border.
The trend has generally been heading in the wrong direction altogether. Fiscal year 2022 saw 539 agents assaulted, up from 441 in 2021 and 359 in 2020.
Officials at Customs and Border Protection downplayed the October numbers.
“United States Border Patrol agents are trained, equipped, and authorized to respond appropriately when faced with a threat,” the agency said in a statement to The Washington Times. “However, when harm is attempted, CBP works with federal and state prosecutors to ensure appropriate cases are referred for prosecution.”
The agency said October’s 61 agents assaulted, across 48 incidents, wasn’t far off from what they’d seen for most of 2022, and was in line with what would be expected given the current number of illegal crossers.
But Mark Morgan, former head of CBP in the Trump administration, said that’s the problem — assaults are up, and it’s another measure of how things have deteriorated under President Biden.
“You’re increasing the number of illegal aliens that are trying to avoid apprehension — they’re running, they’re fighting, they’re doing everything they can. With that, more agents are going to be assaulted,” He said.
The increase in assaults is also closely tied to more migrant deaths, and agents are having to make more rescues.
“Every single potential negative aspect is exponentially expanded when you have policies that increase illegal immigration across the board,” he said. “Assaults on agents is just another of the dominos to fall when you have open borders.”
Agents said things have improved from the more free-wheeling days at the end of the Bush administration and the first years of the Obama administration. Between 2008 and 2010, the Border Patrol tallied more than 1,000 assaults each year.
The vast majority of them were “rocking” incidents, in which smugglers or migrants threw rocks at, or dropped boulders on, agents on patrol.
It was a particularly common tactic in California and Arizona.
The drop in incidents coincided with the first major round of border fence construction, which began under President George W. Bush, and with a massive influx of new manpower at the Border Patrol.
Mr. Morgan said border wall construction during the Trump administration has further helped limit assaults.
Still, the numbers are high.
“The Border Patrol is the most assaulted law enforcement agency in the United States,” he said. “There’s no other agency that produces the number of assaults on agents as the Border Patrol.”
Though rocking incidents are down, and shootings remain rare, migrants are still willing to use their fists, and smugglers are increasingly using vehicles as weapons.
That was the case with Ricardo Diaz, whom agents say was smuggling migrants along the border in California when they tried to stop his BMW on Oct. 13. He rammed one Border Patrol vehicle and kept swerving to try to smash into another, agents recounted in a criminal complaint.
Agents tried to spin him into a stop but he managed to keep going, and smashed into the first agent’s vehicle a couple more times before that agent finally managed to pin the BMW to a highway guard rail, ending the chase.
Mr. Diaz told agents he didn’t know why they chased him and denied smuggling.
He is being prosecuted for assaulting an agent.
A couple of hours after Mr. Diaz’s arrest, and a little bit west along the border, agents tried to stop a smuggling suspect at a highway checkpoint. They say Issak Isaiah Monge, driving a Range Rover, swerved to try to strike an agent manning the checkpoint, then sped away, eventually smashing into a Border Patrol vehicle before finally being brought to a stop.
Later that same day, in Arizona, agents nabbed an illegal immigrant who they say had thrown a rock at a Customs and Border Protection helicopter hovering roughly 50 feet off the ground. Luckily, the rock missed.
The pilot, who is part of Air and Marine Operations, a sister agency to the Border Patrol, said if the rock had hit the aircraft rotor it would have brought the chopper down.