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Nine Border Points Closed After Kidnap Threat Against Officials

March 3, 1985

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Nine remote U.S.-Mexico border crossings were closed Sunday and immigration officials armed themselves after a tip that Mexican drug dealers planned to kidnap and kill immigration or customs officials.

″The public can be assured that customs is going to protect the border as we have historically done,″ spokesman Mike Fleming said. ″And we can also assure those intent on threatening customs service or any other law enforcement officer we’re not going to tuck tail and run.″

Officials consider the threats ″very credible and very serious,″ said Customs spokesman Charles Conroy in Houston.

Major border crossings, such as the one at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa in southern California were open for business, officials said.

Harold Ezell, Western region commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Sunday that the U.S. government learned Thursday of reported plans by Mexican drug dealers to raid border stations and kill U.S. officials.

On Friday, U.S. Customs Service intelligence officer Kenneth Ingleby warned agents ″that within 10 days, an unknown group of Mexican nationals intends to kidnap a U.S. Customs agent″ or immigration officer.

The threat follows the Feb. 7 abduction of a U.S. drug agent in Guadalajara, Mexico.

No incidents occurred during the weekend along the Mexico-U.S. border in California, Arizona or Texas, officials said.

In Houston, Conroy said the nine crossing points that were closed Saturday are ″remote and difficult to secure and a very small number of customs officers are working in all of them.″

Motorists crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at the open stations the weekend weren’t delayed by the extra security measures, Fleming said.

The nine closed crossings are Amistad Dam, near Del Rio, Texas; Falcon Dam, near Zapata, Texas; Los Ebanos, a hand-operated ferry south of Laredo, Texas; Andrade, Calif.; Tecate, Calif.; Sasabe, Ariz.; Naco, Ariz.; Morley Gate Crossing, a pedestrian crossing in Nogales, Ariz.; and Antelope Wells, N.M.

Ezell said those entries will remain closed until an investigation can be completed. That could take up to 10 days, he said.

Most immigration inspectors at San Ysidro were carrying firearms in the wake of the threat, officials said. Unlike customs officers and Border Patrol agents, INS inspectors are not required to be armed.

Border stations that remain open were given additional officers and extra weapons, he said.