Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) pose an ever-present threat to border security, public safety and national security. Their members are involved in countless criminal activity, including murder, narcotics and weapons trafficking and human smuggling. To combat this, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) uses its unique immigration and customs legal authorities to protect the United States from all illegal activity with a border nexus. As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), combating TCOs illegally exploiting America’s travel, trade, financial and immigration systems is the primary focus of HSI special agents.
As part of those efforts, HSI’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) gathers officers from more than 100 different law enforcement agencies under one roof to combat emerging and existing TCOs by employing the full range of federal, state, local, tribal and international law enforcement authorities and resources in the fight to identify, investigate, disrupt and dismantle these organizations at every level of operation. The BESTs strategy eliminates the barriers between federal and local investigations and close the gap with international partners in multinational criminal investigations. Over the years, BEST has become a successful interagency law enforcement collaboration model that’s keeping the homeland safer.
In 2005, HSI partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other law enforcement partners to create a BEST in Laredo, Texas. The success of this task force led to it being recognized as a model program for leveraging efforts against TCOs and enhancing border security. As DHS’s “executive agent” for the development and management of the BEST program, HSI has led a collaborative campaign to establish and administer these investigative task forces in locations most affected by transnational crime.
In 2006, ICE was designated to serve as the executive agent for DHS in the development and management of BESTs. BESTs were initially established in locations where the threat of cross-border crime and associated violence exist.