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