U.S. Customs and Immigration officials stepped up security along the 1,700-mile Mexican border and closed several remote crossings Saturday 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 a 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 crossings in California were closed because they were too small to be secured properly, said Jerry Martin, a customs spokesman in San Diego. The crossings, at Andrade, Calif., just west of Yuma, Ariz., and at the Tecate crossing from Baja, were closed at dusk, he said.
Other stations that reportedly were to be closed at dusk are those at Amistad Dam, near Del Rio, Tex., at Falcon Dam, near Zapata, Tex., at Los Ebanos, a hand-operated ferry south of Laredo, Tex., at Sasabe and Naco, Ariz., at Morely Gate, a pedestrian crossing in Nogales, Ariz., and at 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 sidearm--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 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique S. Camarena, who was abducted at gunpoint in Guadalajara on Feb. 7.