The Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) is the tactical unit of the United States Border Patrol, considered the CBP's equivalent of a SWAT team. In 2007, BORTAC was placed under the command of the newly formed Special Operations Group (SOG) together with the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit (BORSTAR).
|Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC)|
|Federal agency||United States|
|Operations jurisdiction||United States|
|Headquarters||Biggs Army Airfield, Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas|
|Parent agency||U.S. Border Patrol|
The mission of BORTAC is "to respond to terrorist threats of all types anywhere in the world in order to protect our nation’s homeland." In essence, BORTAC teams often conduct drug raids on high value targets, as well as sometimes being attached to Border Patrol or Air and Marine Operations units to assist them in their duties. BORTAC does not only conduct operations on the US-Mexico Border. BORTAC teams are often used to provide a tactical federal law enforcement capability across the country, helping with security for events such as the Super Bowl, as well as being deployed to natural disaster areas to ensure that civil unrest does not break out. Additionally, BORTAC teams can be called upon to assist local law enforcement in high-profile events such as the 1992 Los Angeles riots, where they were part of the 1,000 riot-trained federal special agents sent in an attempt to end the rioting in the Los Angeles region; and the 2015 Clinton Correctional Facility escape, where a BORTAC team inserted by helicopter shot and killed escaped prisoner Richard Matt. BORTAC has been assigned to operate in sanctuary cities to increase immigration enforcement. Finally, BORTAC teams can sometimes be deployed overseas to assist and train countries in drug enforcement and border security techniques.
The unit was first formed in 1984 to deal with disturbances occurring within Immigration and Naturalization Service detention facilities, but this mission is now handled by the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Enforcement & Removal Operations (ERO), Special Response Teams (SRT). Since its inception BORTAC has steadily expanded its scope and mission capabilities, and is now a rapid response unit capable of executing both foreign and national level domestic operations. BORTAC members have operated in 28 countries around the world. Missions have included international training/advisory functions, counter terrorism operations, counter narcotics operations, high-risk warrant service, dignitary protection, interdiction & patrol operations, and tactical training to other U.S. agencies and military units.
Following the World Trade Center Attack in September 2001, BORTAC personnel were sent to high-risk areas around the country to help secure against future attacks.
BORTAC personnel have assisted in natural disaster tactical relief operations (TRO) by providing hurricane relief aid to Gulf Coast residents and law enforcement support to law enforcement agencies affected by Hurricane Katrina.
In 2020, the White House deployed 100 agents including BORTAC to sanctuary cities including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco for 3 months. They will assist ICE agents and act as a show of force. ICE's acting director Matthew T. Albence said this was being done as sanctuary city policies cause an increase in crime. This was disputed by former CBP commissioner Gil Kerlikowske.
BORTAC headquarters is co-located with its training unit at Biggs Army Airfield, within Fort Bliss U.S. Army base in El Paso, Texas. The BORTAC training unit is currently responsible for conducting all CBP tactical team training. In addition, the unit also provides specialist training to other Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. As part of a joint Department of State/ Department of Justice training program, BORTAC has also provided tactical team and counter narcotics training to several foreign governments police, paramilitary, tactical, drug, and specialist units, including the El Salvador National Police's Grupo de Respuesta Policial (GRP) tactical unit.
BORTAC is authorized a wide range of weapons systems such as:
- Heckler & Koch P2000 pistol, in .40 S&W, with the LEM (Law Enforcement Mechanism) double-action trigger system
- Heckler & Koch USP Compact pistol in .40 S&W
- Heckler & Koch P30L LEM in .40 S&W
- HK UMP submachine gun in .40 S&W
- Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun with 14" barrel, specially modified by Scattergun Technologies
- M4A1 carbine in 5.56×45mm
- M14 rifle in .308 Winchester
- SIG Sauer P229 DAO in 9×19mm Parabellum
- Remington 700 .308 rifle
- M40 rifle XBKS .308 rifle
- M79 grenade launcher
- M203 grenade launcher
- 37 mm gas guns
- Heckler & Koch MP5 (being phased out)
- Heckler & Koch HK33A2
- Heckler & Koch HK53 A2 or A3
- Steyr SSG rifle.
BORTAC Personnel wear a variety of uniforms while conducting operations. These include desert khaki or foliage colored two-piece flight suits, as well as combat uniforms in foliage, desert khaki, and Multicam. Because of the increasing prevalence of smugglers wearing camouflage, BORTAC personnel will often, when operating in conjunction with Border Patrol or CBP Air and Marine Operations, wear similar uniforms to those of the unit with which they are operating. BORTAC Personnel also commonly wear plate carriers and, on occasion, ballistic helmets to protect them in the course of their operations. Most of their uniforms and gear are fire resistant, a result of their operations often taking place in conjunction with CBP Air and Marine Operations.
- "Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC)" (PDF). United States Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- "CBP's Special Operations Group Program Cost and Effectiveness are Unknown" (PDF). Office of Inspector General. 29 January 2016. OIG-16-34. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- "Border Patrol Special Operations Group (SOG)" (PDF). United States Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
- "BORTAC History and Overview". United States Customs and Border Protection. 26 December 2007. Archived from the original on 28 December 2009.
- "Border Patrol Will Deploy Elite Tactical Agents to Sanctuary Cities". nytimes.com. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
- "CBP Border Patrol tactical unit graduates 20th class". Today: official employee newsletter of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. United States Customs and Border Protection. May 2006. Archived from the original on 14 May 2009.
- "Napolitano confirms gang killed border agent in battle - USATODAY.com".