Border Patrol hosted a presentation at the latest Chamber of Commerce breakfast on September 22 to discuss its mission, the agency itself, and the challenges it faces in the border area. Border Patrol Imperial Beach Station Commander Justin De La Torre was the guest speaker. De La Torre began his career at Imperial Beach station in 2000 after working at different stations and later spending time in Washington D.C. He said he was lucky to be selected as Station Commander at Imperial Beach in 2018. “My passion for this mission, my passion for our community resides here at Imperial Beach…I raised my two children in South Bay…we lived at IB at Second and Date… [Imperial Beach] is [my] favorite surf spot. A number of us agents surf Imperial Beach, and there are a number of agents who live in IB, we’re really invested in the community and the South Bay as a whole,” he said. -he declares. “We are doing our part at the border, as members of the federal government and members of the executive branch and federal law enforcement entities, it is very important for us to share with you all that we are doing … why our mission exists. ”
De La Torre pointed out that the Border Patrol is part of the Department of Homeland Security created in 2003 in the aftermath of 9/11. Prior to this time, the Border Patrol was organized differently and was the responsibility of the US Department of Justice and the INS. After 9/11, the United States reorganized some agencies to protect against acts of terrorism, and Border Patrol fell under a new agency called Customs and Border Protection with two other branches: Customs and Air Marine Operations – which fly planes and use high speed. ships to protect the coast. The three branches have the same mission “to prevent dangerous things, people and dangerous things from entering the United States and to facilitate lawful commerce and travel,” De La Torre said. Trade and legal travel is an important aspect of the border region. In fact, San Ysidro is the largest port of entry in the world with 52 lanes of inbound traffic to the United States, with a massive amount of economic exchange and commerce.
There are 20 Border Patrol Sectors nationwide, and San Diego has eight stations, with Imperial Beach being the most southwesterly. De La Torre said what is unique about this border region is that it is the most densely populated in the country. There are 1.5 million people in Tijuana and 3.3 million in San Diego. The Juarez El Paso area comes close to San Diego with similar numbers. De La Torre explained that with population density, there is more crime and more people trying to circumvent the law for financial gain. This is due to an immigrant population that wants to live here and massive criminal enterprises that exploit it to expedite illegal entry into the United States.
Imperial Beach Station was built in 1985 on Navy property, in a section of REAM Field on the east corner. It was during the years between the 1980s and 1990s, which De La Torre called “pure chaos”. A large number of illegal immigrants who were 99% Mexican nationals crossed over to the United States. At that time, border security was porous and there were people commuting between the United States daily. It has become so chaotic with people running around in backyards, increased crime, stolen property and vehicles. At that time, Border Patrol began a strategy to control the terrain and create the station, which employed 440 agents. De La Torre recalls Operation Gatekeepers, which he was involved in early in his career, which saw officers lined up along the border every 100 yards of the beach at Otay Mountain. This strategy stopped the migration in this area but pushed it east – towards the Campo and Jacumba area. Border Patrol then attempted to expand Operation Gatekeepers, but this would require over 200,000 officers and was not sustainable. Then other methods were used, which De La Torre described as “the right combination of people, infrastructure and technology – cameras, sensors, roads, fences, things that would prevent people from making a quick entrance “. De La Torre pointed out that Congress has invested millions in infrastructure and security in our border region. “It’s one of the most secure sections of the border, in terms of having all the right pieces,” he said. Good parts include paved roads and the infill of Smuggler’s Canyon that allows officers to cross it in less than a minute (compared to 20-30 minutes previously). Better roads also meant fewer or no accidents from vehicles involved in high-speed chases that often resulted in injuries to officers, migrants or drug traffickers.
De La Torre discussed some of the ways officers detect illegal incursions, including ground sensors, cameras, fiber optics to detect movement, radar, heavy-duty fences that have been increased from 8ft to 18ft and even 30 feet. High fences have slowed down illegal entry attempts. Officers still use mountain bikes and ride horses. De La Torre said they are invaluable tools due to the wetlands, estuary and sensitive habitats as well as the endangered species that live in the area – such as snowy plovers and pygmy terns. In the sensitive environment, officers maintain security but slink lightly, and they are well trained to avoid wildlife and have the least impact possible. Sometimes officers patrol on foot and when they have to drive on the beach they are well trained to avoid areas during nesting season. The higher level of security since the 1990s has directly increased wildlife habitat in sensitive areas. In fact, before those years, there could have been thousands of people on foot a day crossing sensitive areas. The Border Patrol also employs dogs which are very useful in tracking people and detecting narcotics, and a marine unit consisting of a small team which patrols the harbor and Mission Bay. With increased security on land, more and more illegals try to arrive by water daily at both Imperial Beach and Coronado – either by swimming or on boogie boards.
De La Torre explained that the cartels are involved in every illegal smuggling in one way or another, whether it is human trafficking, a criminal element, drug trafficking or rights. ownership of the information. Much of the smuggling is done by the Sinaloa Cartel, which has a strong presence in Tijuana and throughout the Baja. There was a competition between Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco Cartel New Generation which resulted in weekly murders. Competing smugglers are often killed on the other side of the fence, and streamers are left over the bodies with warnings to the opposing cartel. Border Patrol shares information and maintains a strong partnership with Mexican law enforcement.
Despite the best efforts of the Border Patrol, it is estimated that between 150 and 180 people still enter illegally each day. Today, large numbers of people enter the United States and seek asylum from countries such as Colombia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Peru. De La Torre said Border Patrol has seen 66 countries represented in the past two weeks and in the past 12 months more than 100. Asylum seekers pay smugglers between $200 and $1,000 to be smuggled in smuggle along the fence with a ladder or to cut a grid. Along with all legitimate claims, officers also uncover immigrants with fraudulent asylum claims. Some bring with them children, who are not their own, because there is a better chance of being released because the detention capacities of immigrants with children are more difficult.
All officers encountered are fingerprinted, photographed and criminal records checked against numerous databases. If criminals are discovered, they are processed for deportation or prosecution. “We are doing careful work to identify these people and collect information, including DNA,” De La Torre said.
Often people who want to enter the United States pay $10,000 per person to be smuggled and when they don’t pay the fee they are used for human trafficking and sex trafficking. De La Torre gave the example of a migrant who might be forced to sell flowers on the street to pay off a contraband debt for two to three years. Recently, a woman was found by Border Patrol at Acorn Casino, a victim of sex trafficking. There have been cases where immigrants have been found locked in basements because someone failed to pay the smuggling fees for them. Finally, De La Torre talked about the agents who have to manage the flow of waste water. “It is a huge concern for us that we are on board to defend…how this is harming our officers and migrants and ruining a beautiful region,” he said.
Flight. 38, n° 39 – Thursday, September 29, 2022