A group of 24 Mexican Customs officers completed a rigorous and unprecedented 10-week training program modeled on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Training Program to prepare them to more effectively fight crime along the southern border and within Mexico.
Students of the ICE-sponsored Mexican Customs Investigator Training (MEXCIT), their instructors, and Mexican and U.S. dignitaries attended a graduation ceremony at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 22, 2010. The event marked another landmark achievement that substantiates the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/ICE commitment to partner with Mexico in confronting drug cartels and other criminal organizations whose actions undermine public safety, erode the rule of law and threaten the national security of the United States, Mexico and the world at large.
ICE Deputy Director Alonzo R. Peña, a long-standing supporter and active leader in bi-national cooperation with Mexico, was responsible for bringing the training to fruition. Peña officiated at Friday's ceremony and introduced DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano; Mexico's Secretary of Treasury Ernesto Cordero Arroyo; Director of Tax Administration Service and Customs Alfredo Gutierrez Ortiz Mena and ICE Director John Morton.
Morton commended the students for completing the challenging and physically demanding course work that included getting a dousing of pepper spray. Morton said MEXCIT is the first of its kind and "stands as a shining example of the strength of the U.S. and Mexico's commitment to bilateral cooperation."
Napolitano congratulated the graduates and in her prepared remarks she said that in the last several years we have seen "a greater level of security cooperation between our two countries than at any point in our histories." In speaking about the drug cartels that operate in both the U.S. and Mexico, Napolitano said that "fighting them demands a response that is transnational and that is coordinated."
Also addressing the crowd was Secretary Cordero who said, "ICE has great experience and wonderful information, and the opportunity to share in that is extremely beneficial."
James S. Thomas, unit chief of international training at the ICE Academy, explained that a large block of curriculum was dedicated to officer safety, internal controls and integrity training." "It energized the instructors to be teaching the classes because the students were so enthusiastic and raised so many questions," said Thomas.
ICE instructor Daniel Hernandez, taught classes in integrity, undercover investigations and practical exercises. He said that on occasion "we had to tell them [the students] to put down their pencils. They were hungry for the information and just wanted to keep writing. I've been here for the entire 10 weeks, and these are not the same people we picked up from the plane. They are actual special agents. They are more aware of their surroundings, their safety and the importance of this job."
A MEXCIT graduate, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, said the training was more than gaining knowledge. "It's about wisdom." He is anxious to apply his newfound knowledge in his law enforcement role in Mexico. "This is another tool to use to combat crime and all that crime provokes. We want to have a safe country with people and families enjoying their lives," he said.
The youngest student, a 23-year-old woman, said of the instructors, "They took the most important work of their life and gave it to us. It was a precious gift."
For more information, please read the news release.