The Los Angeles Times‘ border reporter, Richard Marosi, has this engrossing profile today of the local Border Patrol’s Air Mobile Unit, a crew that drops into some of the county’s most rugged terrain in search of border-crossers.

A sample:

The agents lie back on the rocks, waiting in silence as a fog bank rolls in, shrouding the mountains in mist.

Illegal immigrants who make it this far inside California have beaten the front line of border defenses. The only things between them and the freeways are these mountains — and the mobile unit’s Team Gold. Its members are responsible for flushing out smugglers and migrants from some of the border’s most rugged terrain.

These scrub-covered peaks in the backcountry east of San Diego are becoming the illegal entry point of last resort as beefed-up enforcement in urban areas and Arizona pushes migrant routes toward more rugged terrain.

Since the agency’s San Diego area sector launched the unit four years ago, its 50 agents have apprehended more than 20,000 migrants and 347 suspected smugglers. The unit, divided into three teams — Gold, Blue and Green — is the only one of its kind in the agency.

Few squads work harder for each arrest.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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