Recognizing the need for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Unit agents, as cartels resort to their old techniques, the Brownsville Marine Unit got a $1.6 million facelift.
The facility, located in Port Isabel, was expanded from approximately 4,000 square-feet to over 10,000 square feet.
It now includes a state of the art communications center, gym and office space for about 40 federal agents, including CBP, U.S Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigators.
Boats with 900 horsepower engines are used by agents, to chase down smugglers trying to bring drugs or illegal immigrants into the country via the Gulf of Mexico.
"In the source and transit zone where the bulk narcotic - particularly cocaine arrives - as you start to seal the land borders more properly and add more security, the cartel movements either start to return to go around on the water, or return to some of the air deliveries," Gen. Michael Kostelnik, assistant commissioner for the unit said.
Kostelnik said the facility is one added resource in the war against drugs, especially since it's the more experienced drug runners looking to get by on water.
"The drug cartel movements - it's like fighting a war, Kostelnik said. You do one thing and achieve a result and they move to another mode. The drugs still have to come somewhere, so what you'll see is there will be more transport on the water.
Chief Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Rosendo Hinojosa said that in the past year, over 1 million pounds of drugs were seized, throughout the in the 316-mile area his agents cover. He adds the seizure numbers are on track to be about the same this year.
Hinojosa said it takes a coordinated effort between Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, Texas Parks and Wildlife and local authorities to attack the problem before it gets out of hand.
"In other words, before they start exploiting a perceived vulnerability, Hinojosa said. We need to make sure that the message out there is, if you're going to come through here, we're going to catch you, arrest you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law."