Border Patrol Agent
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The Shepherd Border Patrol
Over the years, the US Customs and the US Border Patrol has been carrying out its duty of safeguarding the country. Its basic purpose is to screen everything that enters into the United States, be it a person, animal, chemical, plant or goods of any kind. If you think about it, the concept is simple enough, but the job of a US customs and border patrol officer is far from being a walk in the park.
Preventing the illegal entry of a person who is potentially a threat to national security– even if he or she has a legitimate US passport– is by no means an easy task. Imagine going through roughly a million and a half people each day, authenticating their entry to the US. It is a daunting job, but the officers in the US customs and border petrol do it so well.
The US Customs was not originally a part of the US Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1789 under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Treasury to manage and collect taxes or tariffs from imported goods. For the most part, it served as one of the biggest sources of national funding for the Government at the time. The money collected from these tariffs was used to build national projects like infrastructure and territorial claims. The United States benefited very much from these funds, which were used to build roads, railways, lighthouses, and some government facilities. It was a big contributor to national development.
As the world began to opens its doors wider for international travel and trade, the US Customs also made some changes with the way they operated. From an almost purely administrative role, they transitioned into assisting with federal law enforcement. It became an inspection agency that utilized modern methods similar to what the police force use. Thus, the Homeland Security Act was passed.
The Immigration and Naturalizations Service Inspections Program, the US Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Quarantine, as well as the Border Patrol were combined, and it formed what is now known as the US Customs and Border Protection. This agency works hand-in-hand with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is made up of the combined force of the Federal Protection Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Since becoming a federal agency, the US Customs and Border Patrol is now in charge of facilitating the entry or importation and exit or exportation of goods. It is responsible for inspecting any and all cargo that is being transported across all borders, be it land, sea or air. Illegal or contraband items are searched out and the perpetrators are put to justice.
Some examples of items that are illegal and prohibited from being entered into US soil are non-licensed products from countries like Cuba (like cigars, for example), items containing pornography of minors, counterfeit and fake merchandise (electronics, jewelry, clothes, perfume, to name a few), textiles in excessive quantities, items that violate Intellectual Property Rights, prohibited drugs and narcotics, harmful chemicals, stolen properties, extremely large quantities of tobacco and tobacco products, weapons and firearms that are undeclared or unlicensed, excessive quantities of liquor, money and monetary equipment that are undeclared and exceeding the allowable limit of $10,000, and meat, fruits and vegetables that have not been properly screened.
Aside from screening and documenting the entry of the above listed goods, the US CBP is also in charge of policing the entry of persons across all known borders. For over a hundred years already, watchmen have been patrolling the borders of the country, preventing illegal crossings of foreign nationalities; mostly Chinese who were trying to immigrate illegally. Nowadays, illegal immigration is still a big problem, but mostly focused on the United States-Mexico and the United States-Canada borders.
The primary function of the border patrol is to detect, deter and apprehend individuals who are involved in illegal or criminal activities. Examples of these illegal acts are drug trading and human trafficking. Illegal immigrants also try to enter the country through other ways aside from the main ports of entry, so it is also the job of the US CBP to prevent that from happening.
The United States border is perhaps the largest border in the world, totaling to about 6,000 miles. The US CBP is responsible for the length of that border, as well as other interior checkpoints and ports of entry, including seaways and airways.
The enforcement of anti-illegal immigrant laws has always been a tough one. In earlier years, the US CBP tried to focus the long arm of the law on employers who hire illegal immigrants. They believed that the promise of work and financial stability was what attracted foreigners to come into the US even by illegal means. However, the sanctions to employers were deemed ineffective as the rate of illegal immigration crimes rose. Because of this, the attention was turned to the illegal immigrants themselves. Laws were passed that allowed for the questioning and detaining of non-American nationals. These laws deprived them of benefits and they had to be reported to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for deportation.
Following the devastating attacks on September 11, 2001, the US CBP intensified its campaign against illegal entry of persons into the United States. After extensive ratifications on its operational procedures, the border patrol soon after released its new strategy of combating the problem of illegal immigration on a nation-wide scale. The strategy had five main objectives which are as follows:
• Apprehending known and suspected terrorists as well as any person carrying terrorist weapons
• Deterring illegal entries through more thorough law enforcement
• Detecting, apprehending and deterring the smuggling of human persons, drugs or narcotics and other items that are contraband or illegal
• Using improved technology to guard the borders
• Reducing crimes in border communities and therefore improving their quality of life
The US CBP utilizes various state-of the art methods, technology and equipment to do its job. Examples of these are electronic sensors strategically placed along the border, mostly on uninhabited areas like deserts, mountains or canyons. The watchmen or agents also use night vision equipment and video monitoring. There are also agents who patrol the border in vehicles such as dune buggies, boats, helicopters and similar aircraft, on horseback, using all-terrain vehicles, even snow mobiles. Air-borne surveillance using unmanned autonomous or remote controlled aerial vehicle (commonly known as drones) are also used for improved scanning and detection of illegal entry.
Aside from the above-mentioned procedures, the US CBP also performs traffic checks along highways leading away from the border to make sure no aliens have evaded detection. Other transportation checks like inspection of commercial aircrafts, buses, passenger trains, freight trains and marine vehicles are also employed.
Another strategy of the US CBP is the construction of a fence that runs along the border. This strategy was met with much disapproval from environmentalists, who claim that the ecosystem would suffer if the construction of the fence was approved. This was because clearing the land, uprooting plants and trees, installing cameras, bright lights and motion detectors will endanger the wildlife species in the area by restricting their movements and depriving them of food and water sources. Also against this construction were land owners who feared they would lose their land when the fence occupies it. However, the fence was still built.
Some reports say that the fence decreased illegal immigration activity since it was erected, while others state that illegal immigrants simply found new ways and means to enter the country. When all is said and done, there will always be new challenges to be faced whether exterior or interior in nature. Through these challenges and difficulties, the US Customs and Border Patrol will continue to do its duty of serving the country by securing our borders.