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EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Texas, says ‘it’s only fair’ that the family of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer who was killed in Mexico more than 10 years ago has received compensation of deaths after his office lobbied on their behalf – while promising to fight for all other families facing similar delays.
Special Agent Jaime Zapata was shot dead in Mexico in February 2011 by commandos working for the Los Zetas in an attempted carjacking. Zapata was killed and his colleague, Special Agent Victor Avila, was injured in the attack
Cartel members fired into the vehicle with handguns and semi-automatic weapons, including AK-47 and AR-15 type rifles. Investigators found around 90 shell casings at the scene, according to evidence presented in court. However, while seven perpetrators were apprehended and extradited, the murder charges were ultimately dismissed as the crime occurred outside the United States and the district court found it lacked jurisdiction.
Zapata’s family did not receive a death benefit, including reimbursement of funeral and travel expenses. Flores’ office said it repeatedly intervened with the appropriate agencies, and Zapata’s family was reimbursed this week for expenses from more than a decade ago.
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“Jaime Zapata was a hero who died in defense of our nation. He was killed in Mexico on a mission for the United States, and it’s really frustrating to see that the families had not received the benefits of their son, and it’s just for their family to receive his benefits,” Rep. Flores told Fox News Digital in an interview.
Mary Zapata, Jaime’s mother, released a statement saying Flores has accomplished “more for my family in six weeks than others in over eleven years.”
“My son, Jaime Jorge Zapata, lost his life to keep our community in the Rio Grande Valley safe. Mayra’s dedication to honoring her service helped us receive her death benefits. It is much appreciated” , she said. “No family should ever have to go through the pain and suffering of losing a family member, only to be overlooked by bureaucrats in Washington for more than eleven years!”
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Flores expressed concern that there may be other families in the United States who are facing similar issues to the Zapata family.
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“I’m so happy that we were able to help the Zapata family, but how many families like the Zapata family do we have in Texas, do we have in the United States?” she told Fox News Digital. “That’s why I’m here in Congress, to fight for families like the Zapata family.”
Last year, President Biden signed bipartisan legislation named after Zapata and Avila. The federal Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Law Enforcement Protection Act guarantees extraterritorial jurisdiction over the assault, kidnapping, and murder of federal employees abroad, which means perpetrators can be prosecuted in US federal court.
Fox News’ Emmett Jones contributed to this report.