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FLEOA Applauds the Final Passage of Jaime Zapata

 

 

 

FLEOA Applauds the Final Passage of Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officer and Employee Protection Act, Two Other Priority Bills

  

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

October 27, 2021

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Larry Cosme, National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), released the following statement regarding passage of the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officer and Employee Protection Act as well as two other priority legislative items:

"We are very excited that the House of Representatives passed the Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officer and Employee Protection Act (S.921), clearing it to be signed into law. This legislation was initiated and co-authored by FLEOA due to its critical importance for our members. We are also proud to see two other FLEOA priority pieces of legislation – the Protecting America’s First Responders Act and C.O.P.S. Counseling Act – also cleared by the House,” Cosme said. 

"FLEOA is grateful for the efforts of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) who helped get these bills passed in the House. We are also thankful for our congressional sponsors, Sen. Jon Cornyn, Sen. Chris Coons, Rep Henry Cuellar, Rep Mike McCaul, Sen. Cortez Masto, Rep David Trone, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Bill Pascrell for working with us to create, advance, and advocate for these must pass measures to support and protect law enforcement officers and their families,” said President Cosme. "Each of these bills address a critical need at a critical time for law enforcement in this country.”


The following legislative items passed through the House of Representatives today:

  • S. 921, the "Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officer and Employee Protection Act,” a FLEOA-driven effort named in honor of two Hero HSI Special Agents and members who were ambushed by members of the Los Zetas drug cartel while on official assignment in Mexico in early 2011.  The bill corrects a circuit court split created when a panel for the D.C. Circuit tossed out the murder convictions for two cartel members for the killing of Special Agent Zapata. The bill, led by Sens. Jon Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Reps. Henry Cuellar (R-TX) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), now heads to the White House.
  • S. 1502, the "COPS Counseling Act,” introduced by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Rep. David Trone (D-MD), helps ensure the confidentiality of federal law enforcement peer support communications.  FLEOA played an active role in the drafting of this legislation to increase confidence among law enforcement officers in seeking wellness services.  This bill also now heads to the White House to be signed into law.
  • S. 1511, the "Protecting America’s First Responders Act,” introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ).  The bill fundamentally reforms DOJ’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program, and would increase the ability of officers injured in the line of duty to successfully claim a PSOB disability benefit.  Prior to House passage, the bill was amended to include language extending a 2020 law, the "Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act,” that provides a COVID-19 presumption for PSOB benefits to officers who die or become disabled as a result of the coronavirus.  The bill now returns to the Senate for a final vote in that chamber. 

Collectively, these measures would ensure that anyone who harms a federal employee on foreign soil will be held accountable, improve the delivery of death and disability benefits for fallen officers, and ensure the confidentiality of federal law enforcement peer support communications.   As stated, while S. 921 and S. 1501 will head to the White House to be signed into law, S. 1511 will return to the Senate for final passage before heading to the White House.

"The Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Federal Officer and Employee Protection Act’s passage is a fitting tribute to the bravery, tenacity, and heroism of former HSI Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila. While Zapata gave his life in service to our nation, his family was left behind with the scars of his assassination at the hands of a drug cartel. Avila, who was severely wounded, continues to carry the scars from that day and turned them into advocacy. Both the Zapata family and Special Agent Avila have been critical advocates supporting this legislation and working towards its passage. We applaud their faith and stalwart support during this process, which honors both Jaime and Victor and their dedication to our nation. This legislation ensures no family and no officer will question the U.S. government’s ability to achieve justice on their behalf,” said Cosme. 

"The entire FLEOA family would like to thank our coalition of supporting federal departments and law enforcement organizations, including the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, Department of Justice, the Biden Administration, American Foreign Service Officers Association, National Treasury Employees Union and many others for supporting this initiative and helping advocate for its passage,” said Cosme.

Cosme concluded, "Now that these important national security and physical and emotional support priorities have passed the House, we encourage the President to swiftly sign them into law.”

FLEOA is the nation’s largest non-partisan, non-for-profit professional association representing more than 30,000 federal law enforcement officers and agents across 65 federal agencies.