Department of Homeland Security
One important branch of the US Department of Homeland Security is Border Patrol. The prime objective of the United States Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) is to welcome legitimate visitors, travelers and traders while keeping out any terrorists and criminals. The United States has over 320 ports of entry including land, sea and air ports, and it is the job of the US CBP to secure these borders from any threats, such as illegal immigration and human trafficking, smuggling of goods, agricultural pests, drugs and narcotics, as well as warranted criminals. Every day, the CBP processes the entry of more than a million people across land, sea and air ports. It is no easy task. They use state-of-the-art procedures and equipments to get the job done rapidly and thoroughly.
The US CBP utilizes several ways and means of monitoring the different ports of entry. They employ what is most probably the largest aviation and maritime law enforcement organization in the world, which is the Office of Air and Marine (OAM). The OAM is a significant component in the US CBP’s multi-layered enforcement strategy, having over 1,200 expert personnel and federal agents, more than 270 aircrafts and over 300 marine vessels located in 80 different operating sites. The capability of the OAM to provide both marine and air support and surveillance is an invaluable strategic advantage in the fight against crime.
The US Border Patrol performs routine checks and scans for all people who try to get into the country. They perform cargo examination and inspection, using scanners and monitors that determine if objects being brought into the country are smuggled or infected, or contain drugs, or even radioactive. They also are highly trained professionals who perform agricultural inspection, wherein they determine the presence of biological pests or chemicals that might be used for warfare and terrorism. The Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System of the border patrol makes use of gamma imaging, while Radiation Portal Monitors scan for radiation.
In 2009, the border Patrol Canine program and the Field Operations canine program merged together and created the Customs and Border Protection Canine Program which operated under the Office of Training and Development. The program is the largest and most diversified canine operation in the country, with more than 1,500 canine teams who work together to patrol the borders and ports of entry. The responsibility of the program is to train canine instructors, trainers and handlers all over the country in order to support the CBP in combating illegal activities across all borders.
The program uses a customized training discipline, and all teams are trained and certified in all aspects of dog behavior. The dogs are trained for different disciplines, such as detecting hidden and concealed narcotics (drug-sniffing), passenger narcotic detection (whether a passenger is under the influence of drugs), currency and firearms detection (bomb-sniffing), and search-and-rescue. However, dogs for the agricultural detection team are trained in a separate facility because they need highly specialized skills and training.
The Border Patrol also has the department that handles tactical infrastructure like roads, fencing, lights, electrical structures and drainage structures. Some of the most visible projects of this department are the pedestrian and car fence projects along the Southwest border.
One of the most difficult problems being combated by border security is human trafficking. This is why the US government launched the Blue Campaign. It is patterned under the three P’s of the Trafficking Victims Act, which are prevention, protection and prosecution. As part of protection and prevention, the campaign No Te Enganes (Don’t be fooled) was begun. It is the public exposure of human trafficking as a modern-day slavery and sexual abuse. Its main objective is to create awareness about this prevalent crime and the problems it causes, as well as its effect on human rights. It works through promoting a toll-free number where people can report any and all suspicious activity.
As the information age progresses, we have to keep upgrading our systems to accommodate all the forms of communications that are becoming available and make use of them all to help fight crime across borders. This is why the border patrol formed its tactical communications group under the Office of Information and technology.
For several years now, the CBP has been implementing the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) plan, which aims to monitor any vessel, cargo, craft, their crew and passengers. This is important because the international maritime domain is directly impacting the security, safety and economy of the country, not to mention the environment as well. Monitoring any and all activities in this domain will help the keep the country safe as well as coordinating with other countries regarding information and intelligence.
Homeland Security uses Advanced Passenger Information Systems (APIS) to enhance border security on land, air and sea domains. The system provides officials with arrival and departure manifest information on all passengers and crew. There are APIS for air and marine vessels, as well as for buses and rails.
The CBP has published an informative website that allows citizens to be up-to-date on any and all things related to customs, border patrol and homeland security in general. It contains the latest news and trends in the field of security and national safety, as well as written testimonies of leading officials relating the current status of the different government branches involved with homeland security.
In addition, the website features the CBP Info Center, which holds frequently asked questions about travel, import, export, and other civilian concerns. Users can log on and even type complaints (or compliments) regarding service and processes. They can also download forms and check out the latest fees and duty rates. The forums are regularly updated to ensure that the public is properly informed.
You can also find links to different government websites like the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Freedom of Information Act (FoIA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), FinCEN, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP), US Department of Transportation (DOT), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Department of State, US Treasury – Office of Foreign Assets Control, Global Online Enrollment System (GOES), Department of Homeland Security, and USA.gov.
One of the services that users find useful online is the Global Online Enrollment System or GOES. It is a system that allows citizens to create their own application for US CBP Trusted Traveler Programs, and also where approved members can edit and update their information. Some of the programs under the Trusted Traveler Network are Global Entry, TSA PRE (Expedited Screening Program) and Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Global Entry is a program of the US Customs that allows low risk travelers pre-approved clearance to enter the country. The TSA PRE is designed to expedite low-risk passenger applications to allow focus on more high-risk ones. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service for US citizens in other countries, designed so the US government can still assist them in emergencies even while out of the country.
The Department of Homeland Security and the US Customs continues to provide public service to the citizens of this country. In return, it is the public’s duty to follow rules and regulations, as well as report any type of suspicious and criminal behavior. The safety and security of the US lies in the cooperation of all its residents, not just the government. As citizens, it is our responsibility to support our government when it comes to issues about homeland security.