About Customs and Border Protection
As one of the federal government’s elite law enforcement agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is tasked with maintaining the security of the nation’s borders. The almost 60,000 professionals who serve in this prestigious agency monitor and secure the almost 2,000 miles of border with Mexico, 5,500 mile border with Canada as well as ports of entry. As the largest law enforcement agency in the nation, CBP is responsible for enforcing a broad set of federal statutes regarding immigration, international trade and customs.
In recent years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has taken on a much more important and strategic role in protecting the nation. CBP officers are often on the frontline in the war on terrorism, international crime and narcotics trafficking. In order to protect the public from a variety of threats including drugs, Weapons of Mass Destruction, illegal weapons, and biological contamination, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection employs an army of counter-terrorism, contraband and biological specialists.
The officers in U.S. Customs and Border Protection maintain constant vigilance of the borders and ports entry, but they are also responsible to identifying emerging threats to the nation. Premier units of the CBP like the Air and Marine Interdiction Agents use a variety of naval vessels and aircraft to provide constant visibility of all activity along the country’s coasts, waterways and land borders. CBP officials work closely with the law enforcement agencies of neighbor and foreign countries to identify and neutralize materializing threats before they have the opportunity to inflict harm on the U.S. or its citizens.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is primarily composed of CBP Officers who serve in the Office of Field Operations. This office is responsible for conducting many of the law enforcement duties of the agency including conducting searches, serving warrants and making arrests. CBP Officers man the points of entry at major international transportation centers like airports, train stations, crossing points and seaports. These offices are authorized to take extreme action if a terrorist or wanted criminal is identified.
Another major component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel are the U.S. Border Patrol. These agents monitor the nation’s land and sea borders in order to detect and prevent unauthorized entry by undocumented individuals, smugglers and criminal elements. Although the primary work of the U.S. Border Patrol is to maintain the integrity of national borders, Border Patrol Agents also work with communities on both sides of the boundary line to identify potential threats to the public and national security.
Because trade is so vital to the U.S. and global economy, America’s ports of entry are among the busiest in the world. Each day almost a million travelers, 67,000 cargo containers and millions of tons of merchandise enter or exit the United States. It is the responsibility of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel to check all traffic for potential risks. U.S. Customs and Border Protection employs Import Specialists and Agriculture Specialists to identify any materials or goods which could be dangerous to public safety, farm crops or the national environment. These specialists not only protect American lives but also the economy from dangerous parasites, biological agents and criminal activity.
Although the modern U.S. Customs and Border Protection was created only recently, this important organization has roots that go back several centuries. Almost from the moment of the founding of the country, the U.S. has carefully monitored the goods and people that crossed its borders. In July of 1789, the U.S. Congress created the United States Customs Service in just its fifth official act. The U.S. Customs Service became the primary source of government funding for almost 125 years.
The Immigration Act of 1891 created the Office of Superintendent of Immigration within the Department of the Treasury. This office determined if immigrants were admitted or denied, and processed them accordingly.
In the wake of World War I, Congress enacted a number of laws that limited the number of immigrants from various national origins. In 1924, Border Patrol Agents first began to patrol the U.S. borders. The U.S. State Department began issuing a limited number of visas for acceptable immigrants. In 1940, President Roosevelt transferred the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Department of Justice, in an effort to monitor the influx of immigrants for Nazi sympathizers.
In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed the Homeland Security Act. The following year the Department of Homeland Security was established, which reorganized the former agencies of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Customs Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service into the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The 60,000 person U.S. Customs and Border Protection is led by the Commissioner who is currently R. Gil Kerlikowske. His Deputy Commissioner is Kevin K. McAleenan, and his Chief of Staff is Kimberly O’Connor.