Last week, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a red alert to the Mexican city of Mexicali. Be on the lookout for four Iranians who might be plotting to blow things up.
According to Mexicali Police Chief Maria Elena Andrade, the warning occurred on the morning of Thursday, January 9, 2020:
“We received reports that four nationals of Iran possibly carrying explosives were going to attempt to cross the border in the area of San Luis to Mexicali. We were told it was three men and a woman to be on the lookout for.”
CBP advised a 48-hour period of heightened security in the Mexicali area but city officials decided to increase that recommendation to 72 hours. The U.S. border protection agency opted out of a direct interven to address the threat.
Mexicali is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California, seat of the Municipality of Mexicali, and second-largest city in Baja California after Tijuana. Calexico in the U.S. sprawls as far as the international boundary, at which point the land further south belongs to Mexico.
Chief Andrade said that no acts of Middle Eastern terrorism had been reported and was taking the matter very seriously:
“We have no incident that has happened as of now, we are responding accordingly and we will not underestimate these threats.”
According to Andrade, all Mexicali law enforcement operatives in the city went on high alert.
While CBP mandates usually prevent the sharing of information on specific law enforcement actions with the general public, a spokesperson stated:
“CBP officials are continually vigilant when it comes to securing our borders, which includes being dynamic in our law enforcement preparations and responses. On a daily basis, CBP personnel monitor current events and receive and share information from our law enforcement partners, while making adjustments to operations as appropriate. While we generally cannot provide information on our specific law enforcement actions and response, CBP is committed to the daily protection of the American people.”
Andrade established contact with CBP and U.S. Customs the morning of Friday, January 10, and awaited to hear news back from the El Centro Border Patrol Sector to learn what they could confirm.
Operation Shield was activated in Mexicali to counter the threat from the Iranian nationals. DHS says this Operation Shield an ongoing program was created to increase the visual presence of law enforcement at facilities secured by the Federal Protective Service (FPS) to deter terrorist or criminal activity.
The idea behind Operation Shield is that federal buildings are attractive and strategically important targets for terrorists. Past attacks on such facilities have caused substantial damage [and loss of life?] These high-profile facilities also see a lot of foot traffic with many opportunities for unsavory elements to try to sneak in and commit violent acts.
Operation Shield systematically measures the effectiveness of FPS terrorism countermeasures that monitor the constant flow of reliable information regarding active threats to facilities and associated assets, systems, networks, and functions.
Operation Shield duties include monitoring the effectiveness of FPS’ Protective Security Officers in detecting the presence of unauthorized persons and potentially disruptive or dangerous activities.
The comprehensive DHS operation combines physical security expertise and law enforcement authority into an enhanced security team to provide a visual deterrent at FPS-protected facilities.
The goal of Operation Shield is to demonstrate the preparedness and agility of FPS’ response to the current threat environment within the U.S. federal community by:
Providing a highly visible law enforcement presence through patrol operations and increased coverage
- Enhancing security posture intended to disrupt terrorist/criminal activity
- Maintaining a friendly, productive, and helpful customer service-oriented relationship
- Targeting deployment based on current threat assessment or intelligence
- Reducing social and physical disorder
- Enhancing the quality of life for employees, visitors, and community members
A different operation initiated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a similar name: Operation Community Shield. This program is an ongoing multi-agency law enforcement initiative targeting violent gang members and their associates involved in the illegal drug and human trafficking industries in the U.S.
Since the debut of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, “Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and other participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have made more than 40,000 gang-related arrests, including 451 gang leaders, representing more than 2,400 different gangs and organizations, and have seized more than 8,000 guns in multiple projects.”
Border security in on the minds of many Americans in both Mexico and the U.S. and it pays to be on the alert. Strengthening security ties between the two neighbor nations is a top priority in both governments.
Accusations of “xenophobia” or “Islamaphobia” or “racism” are meaningless distractions from the reality of current world events. The threat of extremist violence from international gangs is a clear and present danger recognized by the Trump administration.