Customs and Border Protection: Port Isabel Marine Unit

You may not realize it but one of the world's largest maritime law enforcement organizations has a branch office at Port Isabel.

In this Customs and Border Protection report| we head to the coast to introduce you to the agents that make up the marine side of the Office of Air and Marine.

Unless you frequent South Padre Island or you work along the gulf coast for the fishing industry, you've more than likely never come across the Marine Interdiction agents who patrol approximately 387 coastal miles along the Intracoastal Waterway from the mouth of the Rio Grande River on the International Border north to the Louisiana State line.

"Our border is not a linear one, it's considered like a soft border, US waters extend out off the beach and that's where our primary mission takes place," said Robert Theriot, Marine Interdiction Agent.

A mission carried out by a specialized team of marine forces which detects, interdict and prevent acts of terrorism and the unlawful movement of people, drugs and other contraband across the open waters.

"We are a 24/7 operation, we are available at any point in time during the day to respond to any different activity or incident that may arise that requires our attention," said John Marshall, Supervisory Marine Interdiction Agent.

The Port Isabel Marine Unit works in coordination with local law enforcement to interact with the local boating public.

"We check their documentation, it's an age old law that dates back 200 years that we are able to check boats operation inside the US waters," said Theriot.

Aside from vessel boarding's, radar patrols are conducted by the marine agents along with covert intelligence gathering and surveillance along side other federal and state agencies like the Coast Guard.

It may seem like an easy task but it takes a special person to perform the duties.

"It's not for everyone, some people get seasick and some people just can't take the physical stress of the job or the environment. The environmental stress is what is going to cause an accident and cause incidents to happen," said Theriot.

Luckily, marine agents attest that CBP puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on safety, when it comes to equipment, the vessels they operate and the training they continually receive to accomplish their mission safely.

Last year alone, the Office of Air and Marine personnel were involved in law enforcement operations at home and abroad that resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars worth of cocaine and marijuana.

To accomplish this mission, OAM utilizes over 1200 Federal Agents, operating from 80 air and marine locations, with more than 250 maritime vessels.