U.S. Customs and Immigration officials stepped up security and closed several remote crossings Saturday along the 1,700-mile Mexican border after receiving a tip that a group of Mexican drug dealers was conspiring to kidnap a customs agent.
"Within the last two days the U.S. Customs Service has received threats against its agents," said Ray Martin, supervisory customs inspector at the San Ysidro border crossing, in an official statement from the U.S. Customs Service office in Washington, D.C.
"We believe these threats are credible, and we are taking them seriously and increasing security," he said.
At least two international borders in California were closed because they were too small to secure properly, said Jerry Martin, a customs spokesman in San Diego. The crossings, in Andrade, Calif., just west of Yuma, Ariz., and Tecate, Calif., were closed at dusk, he said.
Other stations that were reported to close at dusk were Amistad Dam, near Del Rio, Tex.; Falcon Dam, near Zapata, Tex.; Los Ebanos, a hand-operated ferry south of Laredo, Tex.; Sasabe, Ariz.; Naco, Ariz.; Morely Gate Crossing, a pedestrian crossing in Nogales, Ariz., and Antelope Wells, N.M.
Earlier news reports said Immigration and Naturalization Service inspectors, who are not required by law to carry firearms at the border, were now doing so as a result of the threat.
But the INS operations supervisor at the San Ysidro border said, "There is really no change." Richard Wilhelm added, "Anyone who is qualified is welcome to carry a side arm--90% of my men do."
Just two weeks ago, U.S. Customs and Immigration agents conducted intensive searches of cars entering the United States for clues to the whereabouts of kidnaped U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique S. Camarena, who was abducted at gunpoint in Guadalajara on Feb. 7.