Border Patrol Pangas

U.S Border Patrol agents walk past a surfer after looking for boats involved in smuggling Sunday, July 25, 2021, in San Diego.

(The Center Square) – Since Oct. 1, 2020, San Diego Sector Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 7,300 Brazilian nationals, an increase of more than 2,200% from the prior fiscal year. In all of fiscal 2020, 330 Brazilian nationals were apprehended, the sector reports.

Every month since April 2021, San Diego Border Patrol has encountered more than 1,000 Brazilian nationals who enter the U.S. illegally. In fiscal 2020, the sector apprehended six, the agency states.

“Due to language barriers and other factors, processing these large numbers of Brazilian nationals strains limited resources increasing the number of agents removed from patrol duties and being reassigned to processing centers,” the agency says.

Overall, the sector is reporting the highest numbers of illegal immigration it’s seen in a decade. Despite being understaffed and inundated with a constant flow of people, its agents are continuing “to manage the current surge of migrants crossing illegally as the Sector’s FY21 to-date encounters and apprehensions exceed 100,000, the highest number in over a decade.”

San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke said, “Despite the challenges, our agents remain resolute protecting America while processing migrants in a humane and professional manner. I am proud of all they do and the sacrifices they make every day.”

The San Diego Sector encompasses 56,831 square miles including 931 miles of coastal border from the California border with Mexico stretching north to Oregon.

One primary focus is a 7,000 square mile area that includes 60 linear miles of international boundary with Mexico and 114 coastal border miles along the Pacific Ocean. Its geography is vast, encompassing coastal beaches, expansive mesas that lead to coastal and inland mountains, rugged canyons and high desert.

Many illegally entering the U.S. through San Diego are coming from the cities of Tijuana and Tecate, which have a combined population of more than 4.5 million people, the sector states.

In the 1970s, illegal immigration through this sector was high, reaching more than 100,000 in 1973 and more than 250,000 by 1976. In 1986, the sector reported its highest number of apprehensions in a single year of more than 628,000 people.

San Diego is the smallest Border Patrol sector geographically and has eight stations. During fiscal 2019, it had 2,214 agents.

By the early 1990s, San Diego accounted for more than 40% of nationwide apprehensions, making it the busiest in the nation. It was the preferred corridor due to its proximity to highly populated neighborhoods north and south of the border, the agency states. But in October 1994, a multi-agency initiative was launched to quell the surge. 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 to transform the sector, which reduced illegal entries by 75% over the next few years.

Since then, the sector has created multiple specialty units using horses, tactical units, air and marine, search, trauma and rescue teams, mobile response teams, and a range of smuggling interdiction, investigation and intelligence units. It’s also launched national initiatives to help train officers with search and rescue operations, among other interdiction measures.