On Sunday, March 13, 1988, at 10:25 P.M., four Mexican military troops wearing camouflage uniforms and brandishing automatic weapons penetrated a mile and a half into U.S. territory south of San Diego, Calif. Their entry point was an unfenced stretch of beach that separated Playas de Tijuana (Tijuana Beach), Mexico from Imperial Beach, Calif. Within sight of the first group of American residential condominiums at the end of Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach, the Mexicans accosted a group of a dozen Americans who were picnicking on the beach, pointing their loaded machine guns at the picnickers and ordering them to lie flat on the ground.
Before the tense situation could escalate any further, the group was spooked by a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter that spotted the incursion and landed on the beach. The Mexicans headed south but were arrested and taken into custody before they could reach the border. The American picnickers scattered into the night.
The local media got hold of the story the next day and it became a dramatic local lead story for about six hours. San Diego’s three network television affiliates began reporting the “invasion,” as two of them termed it, on their 5 P.M. newscasts on Monday, March 14. The story was also reported in print, in the San Diego Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and in several Associated Press accounts.
Within 24 hours of the first media accounts appearing on March 14, 1988, the story disappeared and was never mentioned again – until I recollected it after reading about an analogous incident on April 13, 2019 in Texas. In that recent case, reported by Newsweek on April 19 and tweeted by President Trump on April 24, “five or six” Mexican troops armed with assault rifles crossed the Rio Grande and entered U.S. territory. There, they accosted two U.S. National Guard troops who were assisting the United States Border Patrol. One of the two Americans who was carrying a handgun was disarmed by the Mexicans. After a short time, the American prisoners were released by their captors and went on their way. The incident might never have come to light had Newsweek not gotten a copy of an incident report and published a story online six days after the event.
President Trump singled out the incident to highlight the ongoing crisis on the border. On April 24, he tweeted:
Mexico’s Soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers, probably as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers on the Border. Better not happen again! We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border.
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