Amid mounting tensions at the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. defense officials recently revealed that Mexican troops questioned two U.S. Army soldiers on the American side of the border, even going so far as disarming one of them. Despite knowing the Mexican soldiers were in U.S territory, the Americans said they chose to initially comply in order to "de-escalate a potential volatile situation."
"On April 13, 2019, at approximately 2 p.m. CDT, five to six Mexican military personnel questioned two U.S. Army soldiers who were conducting border support operations in an unmarked (Customs and Border Protection) vehicle near the southwest border in the vicinity of Clint, Texas," U.S. Northern Command said in a statement reported by CNN Friday.
Northern Command underscored that the U.S. soldiers "were appropriately in US territory" when they were confronted by the Mexican troops.
"During the incident, the Mexican soldiers pointed their weapons at the US troops, removing a soldier's sidearm and returning it to the unmarked US vehicle, the officials said," CNN reports. One official specified that the Mexican troops were armed with what appeared to be assault rifles.
The U.S. soldiers allowed the Mexican troops to take the sidearm "in an attempt to de-escalate a potential volatile situation," Northern Command told CNN. "Throughout the incident, the US soldiers followed all established procedures and protocols."
That the Mexican military was confused about their jurisdiction is not surprising given the location, officials said, noting that the border fence in that area is actually north of the official border, the Rio Grande, and the area contains sections of dried-out riverbed.
"Though they were south of the border fence, US soldiers remained in US territory, north of the actual border," the statement said. "[A]fter a brief discussion between the soldiers from the two nations, the Mexican military members departed the area."
The incident comes amid escalating tensions on the border as a result of the massive influx of migrants attempting to get into the U.S. as well as American citizens organizing to help secure the border — the latter development a cause of "deep concern" among Mexican officials, Reuters reports.
"Mexico said on Saturday it had 'deep concern' about armed groups that intimidate and extort migrants on the border, shortly after the ACLU and Democratic senators called for a probe into such citizen efforts to block migrants from crossing," Reuters reports.
"These types of practices can drive human rights abuses of people who migrate or request asylum or refuge in the United States," Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry said in a statement reported by the news agency. Reuters notes that the department described the armed citizens as "militia groups."
On Saturday, the FBI arrested the leader of one of these citizens groups claiming to be "assisting" border patrol in apprehending illegal immigrants. Agents took United Concerned Patriots leader Larry Hopkins (AKA Johnny Horton) into custody in New Mexico Saturday on federal charges of felony possession of firearms and ammunition. The group says they have "arrested" over 5,000 migrants since mid-February.