US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will double the number of its agents deployed in Mexico and examine new security measures in the wake of the killing of one of its officers, director John Morton said Friday.
"We're going to go from 20 people to 40 people" in Mexico, Morton told members of Congress in a hearing on his agency's budget for the upcoming fiscal year. "It will be by far our largest office."
The comments come less than a month after ICE agent Jaime Zapata, 32, was killed and a second ICE agent wounded while driving in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi in a region plagued by drug violence.
ICE, with 7,000 agents, part of the Department of Homeland Security and is one of the main agencies guarding against drug smuggling and crimes related to the trade. It has agents in Mexico City, Tijuana, Monterrey and other cities.
Zapata and his partner were not armed when they were attacked by Mexican gunmen, a fact which Morton had to defend in questions from lawmakers.
Morton said the agency is "doing a very in-depth security assessment."
"We're very cognizant of the fact that we're sending people into a place that's dangerous and we're taking a number of security steps."
Morton noted that the wave of drug-related violence in Mexico in recent years is a major focus of his office.
"It is without question a challenging environment from a law enforcement perspective," he said.
"There's a strong correlation between the organized crime cases we're investigating along the southwest border and what is going on in Mexico. As a matter of fact, most of our operations have a Mexican component."