By Carlos Gomez
Neither military nor police, green-clad U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are tasked with keeping terrorists and their weapons from entering the country, and enforcing immigration and drug laws.
Given its location, CBP's San Diego sector is right at the front line.
The sector is responsible for 7,000 square miles, including 60 linear miles of international boundary with Mexico and 114 miles of coastline. To help guard varying terrain and the unique threats it presents, CBP San Diego has set up various task forces, including a unit for seeking out and shutting down drug- and human-smuggling tunnels, a task force to counter threats by air (smugglers sometimes fly motor-powered hang gliders across the border to drop drugs on this side of the fence) and a search-and-rescue team.
"Our agents are always going to be looking to save lives," says border patrol agent Michael Jimenez of the San Diego sector's Chula Vista headquarters. "We'll help anyone," he says, citing the various times he and his fellow agents have helped look for missing hikers and campers.
CBP enlists the help of citizens through its community outreach programs, which educates the public about CBP's mission and the specific threats border communities face, explains Jacopo Bruni, a border patrol agent and a public affairs officer for the San Diego sector.
CBP's penchant for multitasking, combined with it's public awareness initiatives, seems to have made an impact: in 2011, the San Diego sector was the nation's number one in terms of drug bust drug busts, seizing 68,825 pounds of marijuana; 2,594 pounds of cocaine; and 548 pounds of methamphetamines.
Catch of the Day
On July 20, in Calexico, Calif., CBP detained a car with $210,499 hidden in its gas tank. The vehicle and its three passengers - a 29-year-old man (who's a permanent resident of the U.S.), his wife and daughter - were at an inspection point on their way to Mexico, when a detector dog alerted on the car.
On July 27, CBP agents seized a 27-foot boat off off Santa Barbara, confiscating 6,619 pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of $10 million.
On August 2, CBP stopped a vehicle carrying 47 pounds of liquid methamphetamine, which has a street value of $952,400. Later that day, agents discovered an unattended vehicle containing 28 packages of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $1,157,000.