The San Diego Sector encompasses 56,831 square miles including 931 miles of coastal border from the California border with Mexico north to Oregon. San Diego Sector's primary operational area of responsibility consists of 7,000 square miles including 60 linear miles of international boundary with Mexico and 114 coastal border miles along the Pacific Ocean. The San Diego Sector encompasses coastal beaches and expansive mesas that lead to coastal and inland mountains, rugged canyons, and high desert. Directly south of San Diego lie the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Tecate, Baja California, which have a combined population of more than four and a half million people.
During the seventies, illegal alien traffic steadily increased, rising to more than 100,000 in 1973 and more than 250,000 by 1976. In 1986, the sector recorded its highest number of apprehensions in a single year-more than 628,000.
Although the smallest Border Patrol sector geographically, San Diego Sector was the busiest sector for illegal entries, accounting for more than 40 percent of nationwide apprehensions in the early nineties. For decades, this area was the preferred corridor for illegal entries due to the highly populated neighborhoods north and south of the border. The region gained national attention with the inception of Operation Gatekeeper on October 1, 1994, an initiative that aimed to restore integrity and safety at the Nation's busiest border. The former Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review committed unprecedented resources and implemented innovative strategies to reverse decades of neglect along the San Diego border.
As a result, illegal entries were reduced by approximately 75 percent over the next few years to a more manageable level in the late 1990s. San Diego Sector was then able to concentrate on other areas, such as establishing the Border Safety Initiative (BSI). In 1998, the BSI was initiated, a multi-faceted border safety campaign designed to reduce injuries and prevent fatalities along the border.
Over the course of the last four decades, San Diego Sector has created a variety of specialty units that further the mission of the U.S. Border Patrol.
- 1979-Horse Patrol
- 1984-REACT (now named San Diego Sector Border Patrol Tactical Unit -BORTAC)
- 1992-Marine Interdiction Unit (now led by CBP's Office of Air & Marine)
- 1998-BORSTAR (Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue team)
- 2003-Air Mobile Unit (recently merged into Mobile Response Team)
- 2005-Smuggling Interdiction Group (SIG)- consolidated a variety of special-purpose enforcement units in the areas of smuggling interdiction, investigation, and intelligence
The nationwide expansion of BORSTAR has resulted in thousands of rescues and related search and rescue operations that saved lives. BORSTAR also provides bi-national training in basic search and rescue techniques to foreign law enforcement officials to further enhance safety along the immediate border area. The creation of SIG has enhanced overall enforcement efforts and provided an improved functional liaison with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement entities.
In October 2009, Campaign Stronghold was implemented as a strategy based on focused terrain denial and targeted enforcement geared toward disrupting, dismantling, and defeating targeted transnational criminal organizations. Border Patrol agents made a total of 42,447 apprehensions in San Diego Sector in Fiscal Year 2011. This marks a significant decline resulting in the lowest yearly recorded total since 1969.
Today, San Diego Sector is focused on addressing the continuously changing tactics of transnational criminal organizations. Due to increased land border security, transnational criminal organizations have shifted their illegal activities to include the aerial, subterranean, and maritime domains. In order to effectively protect America's borders, Border Patrol agents conduct their enforcement duties on foot, horseback, and mountain bikes, and utilize various types of vehicles including all-terrain vehicles.
With the increase in smuggling activity in recent years along Southern California's coastal borders, additional Border Patrol agents have been assigned to combat the maritime smuggling of humans and drugs. As a result, San Diego Sector's Primary Operational Domain has increased from 91 coastal border miles to 114. To ensure seamless enforcement, the San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent has tactical control of all CBP Office of Air and Marine assets. This ensures that the mission of securing the border on land, along the coast, and in the air is a comprehensive, all-inclusive process.
Today's complex threats are being addressed through intelligence driven operations, as well as through integrated and collaborative operational planning and execution with other Customs and Border Protection agencies. Moreover, San Diego Sector has enhanced its strategic partnerships with other Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. In addition, San Diego Sector has dedicated its resources to the California Corridor Campaign and implementation of the 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan. These sophisticated strategies focus on collaboration with strategic law enforcement partners and taking a risk-based approach to securing the border. These strategies also ensure a continued investment into strengthening the U.S. Border Patrol through training of personnel, enhancement of technology, and the expansion of inter-agency cooperation.