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Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST)

ICE and ATF officials standing in front of a shipping container
"We stop criminals from moving weapons, drugs and victims across our nation’s borders."

Border related crime, and the violence that is often associated with it, pose significant risks to public safety and the national security of the United States. In response to these threats, the Department of Homeland Security, along with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, remain committed to our focus on disrupting border related criminal activity associated with narcotics smuggling; human trafficking and smuggling; money laundering; bulk cash smuggling; weapons trafficking and smuggling; and other such serious crimes.

ICE partners with more than 100 fellow law enforcement agencies in BEST teams across 16 states. Each team focuses on disrupting criminal smuggling and trafficking operations and on denying criminal organizations the opportunity to transport their illicit funds. Since its creation in 2005, BEST has initiated more than 9,000 cases.

In 2005, in response to the significant increase in violence along the Southwest Border in Mexico, the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as other federal, state, local, and international law enforcement officials created the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) in Laredo, Texas.

On December 7, 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Jaime Zapata Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) Act, Public Law 112-205. The law was named in memory of Jaime Zapata, an HSI special agent assigned to the BEST who died on February 15, 2011, after being shot while on duty in Mexico. This law amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to:

  • Establish BEST units
  • Direct the assignment of federal personnel to the program
  • Take other actions to assist federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to participate

Several international law enforcement agencies serve as key members of the team.

To date, a total of 35 BESTs have been initiated across 16 states and in Puerto Rico. These teams comprise over 1,000 members who represent over 100 law enforcement agencies who have jointly committed to investigate transnational criminal activity along the Southwest and Northern Borders and at our nation's major seaports. On our country's northern border, Canadian law enforcement agencies like the Canada Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Niagara Regional Police Service, the Toronto Metropolitan Police, the Windsor Police Service and the Amherstburg Police Service are active members. On the southwest border, the Mexican Secretariat of Public Safety or SSP, and the Colombian National Police have both been active partners in the past, with both the BEST San Diego and BEST San Juan units.

Currently, there are 35 BEST Units in locations around the U.S.

  • Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, Yuma and Casa Grande)
  • California (Imperial Valley, Los Angeles Seaport, San Diego Seaport, San Ysidro and San Francisco Seaport)
  • Florida (Miami Seaport, Fort Lauderdale Seaport)
  • Michigan (Detroit)
  • New Mexico (Albuquerque, Deming and Las Cruces)
  • New York (Buffalo, Massena and New York Seaport)
  • New Jersey (Newark Seaport)
  • Texas (El Paso, Laredo, Rio Grande Valley, Houston Seaport and Big Bend)
  • Washington (Blaine, Seattle Seaport)
  • Louisiana (New Orleans Seaport)
  • Alabama (Mobile Seaport)
  • Mississippi (Gulfport Seaport)
  • South Carolina (Charleston Seaport)
  • Georgia (Savannah Seaport)
  • Virginia (Hampton Roads)
  • Puerto Rico (San Juan Seaport)
  • Hawaii (Honolulu Seaport)

From their inception through August 2013, BEST Units have collectively initiated more than 10,654 cases. These actions have resulted in more than:

  • 12,718 criminal arrests
  • 7,245 administrative arrests
  • 110,711 pounds of cocaine
  • 5,517 pounds of ecstasy
  • 1,764 pounds of heroin
  • 1,036,749 pounds of marijuana
  • 6,325 pounds of methamphetamine
  • 2,988,561 rounds of ammunition
  • 4,657 vehicles
  • $130.2 million in U.S. currency
  • 15,062 weapons