WASHINGTON — At a ceremony at the White House today, President Biden signed into law the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). The bill ensures individuals who have killed or attempted to kill U.S. federal officers and employees serving abroad can be brought to justice in the United States.
The bill is named for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, who were attacked by Mexican drug cartels in San Luis Potosi, Mexico on February 15, 2011. Special Agent Zapata died from his injuries, and although the perpetrators were apprehended, last year a federal appeals court dismissed the murder convictions due to a lack of jurisdiction over the crimes committed against law enforcement stationed overseas. The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act would clarify that federal officers and employees serving overseas are protected, and that U.S. courts may try their attackers in a U.S. court of law.
“President Biden is taking important steps to ensure protection and justice for federal officers attacked overseas,” said Senator Coons, who attended the bill signing ceremony at the White House. “This clarification of federal law will ensure that anyone who attacks our law enforcement officials will face accountability from the United States, no matter where any act of violence may occur.”
“No matter where federal law enforcement officers are called to serve, they know that their oath to protect our nation extends beyond American soil,” said Senator Cornyn. “This new law will ensure federal officers and employees serving internationally have the protection of the laws they have been sworn to defend by closing a loophole which will deliver justice and honor their courageous service.”
Additional cosponsors include Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). U.S. Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) led the companion bill in the House of Representatives.
Along with the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act, President Biden also signed into law two bills cosponsored by Senator Coons: the Protecting America’s First Responders Act, which will provide for increased Public Safety Officers’ Benefit Program (PSOB) awards in certain instances, and the COPS Counseling Act, which will incentivize officers to utilize peer support programs.
Full text of the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Law Enforcement Protection Act is available here.