US Border Patrol
What is US Customs?
Over the years, the country has experienced a lot threats to national security and public safety. Thus, the Department of Homeland Security was created by the government in order to facilitate the detection and prevention of criminal and illegal activity within the country. It focuses primarily within the civilian sector, unlike the Department of Defense, which is concerned with military matters outside the US.
Within this department is the agency that functions chiefly to facilitate the regulation of international trade and immigration across the United States borders. This is the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). They are the ones who collect import tariffs and enforce US laws regarding immigration.
One of the major responsibilities of the US CBP is to prevent acts or threats of terrorism, which includes preventing the persons and weapons from entering the US. Another focus is the apprehension of individuals who attempt to enter into US soil without proper documentation, taking into consideration their criminal records and background.
The border patrol agents follow specific procedures and strategies to effectively filter the people and goods that pass through the borders every day. This is no easy task, given that around 1.5 million people travel across the border each day. It is their responsibility to perform checks, investigations and apprehensions of suspects; on top of that, they have to welcome those legitimate immigrants as well.
Aside from people, the US customs is also in charge of screening cargo and baggage to prevent the infiltration of drugs, narcotics, pests, harmful chemicals, plant and animal disease-causing bacteria and viruses, weapons and firearms, as well as counterfeit merchandise of all kinds. There are over 300 designated ports of entry throughout the borders of the country, and to effectively guard these ports, the US customs utilizes around 60,000 employees.
The employees of the US CBP have various titles, roles and responsibilities and they all work in sync with each other to make the agency as effective as possible. These employees include people like federal agents, police officers, specialists in agriculture, pilots of aircraft, specialists in the trade industry, canine enforcement staff and other support staff agents.
Screening and checking for harmful pests and chemicals is significantly important when it comes to national security and public health. Pests as well as plant and animal diseases can greatly affect the nation’s crops, cattle and other agriculture in a very negative way if undetected. This is why the US CBP has around 2,200 crop and agriculture specialists who focus on the detection of these harmful elements and prevent them from entering the US.
Since illegal and criminal activities can use other means of entry into the United States, the US border patrol also keeps a tough watch on the surrounding marine and air ways. This requires thorough inspection because people may try to smuggle in weapons, firearms, contraband, narcotics, drugs, and other items that are prohibited from sale or distribution and use within the US. For this, the US CBP has around 1,050 Marine and Air Interdiction agents who facilitate the said inspections and investigations.
The US Customs still performs the duty of collecting tax and tariffs from imports and entry duties. There are around 2,500 CBP agents who take care of this task. The revenues collected annually from this procedure amount to more than $30 billion. This goes to various local government and state benefits.
Apart from collecting revenues, the US CBP also contributes to international trade by appraising incoming items and classifying the said merchandise being imported into the country. This work is done by several employee roles, such as auditors, textile analysts, international trade specialists and import specialists.
To ensure efficiency, the US customs and border patrol not only uses people and machines to aid in its mission, but animal resources are put to excellent use as well. The border patrol has a large canine unit in its disposal. It has the largest population of K-9 working dogs of any government agency. These dogs are trained to sniff and detect questionable items in baggage, luggage and various cargos, as well as on persons (especially drugs, narcotics, liquor, weapons, firearms and explosive devices).
The US CBP is authorized to make searches to any and all incoming and outgoing shipments and passengers. They can also hold and forfeit items and merchandise that are deemed stolen, smuggled, counterfeit and potentially harmful. The items coming and going through the borders are put through tests, including checking them against the submitted electronic information to the US Munitions List and the Commerce Control List. It also uses the information on the Automated Targeting System and the Automated Export System to determine which cargo is potentially dangerous or illegal.
The reasons that items will be stopped and seized are as follows:
• If they pose a threat either to civilian health, safety or natural conservation
• If they do not have a federal license for importation
• If the items or its packaging is violating copyrights, intellectual property rights, trademarks, trade names, and trade dress protections
• If the items violate the marking requirements of their country of origin
• If the items do not have supporting documents like a visa, or if the supporting documents provided and the information they contain are falsified or counterfeit.
Most people who are found to be violating these terms above are faced with civil penalties. The crimes that are in question are fraud, negligence and gross negligence, and are penalized with fines. However, for criminal fraud, the penalty may include imprisonment as well.
There are several major organizations that operate under the jurisdiction of the US Customs and border patrol. These are:
• Office of Field Operations (OFO) – responsible for interdiction, enforcing of immigration policies and inspections
• Office of the Border Patrol (OBP) – patrols the borders and ports of entry
• Office of Air and Marine (OAM) – responsible for non-land law enforcement
• Office of International Trade (OT) – handles import and export
• Office of Information Technology (OIT) – updates facilities
• Office of the Administration (Finance)
• Office of Training and Development (OTD)
• Office of Internal Affairs (IA)
• Office of Intelligence and Investigative Liaison (OIIL) – handles anti-terrorism duties
The US customs screens passengers and goods together with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, using systems like the US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology (US VISIT), Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), and the Student and Exchange Visitor System SEVIS). They also utilize the Container Security Initiative, in coordination with other host nations. With this strategy, containers and cargos are screened at the country of origin prior to departure.
Aside from these, they use programs like the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) and the Trusted Traveler Program for frequent travelers (NEXUS). These programs allow for the faster processing of travelers who are deemed as safe and legitimate passengers and immigrants, and therefore gives more time and resource allotment to tracking down illegal and criminal activities.
The US Customs and Border Patrol will continue to apply new techniques, create new strategies, employ better policies and utilize improved equipment in order to fulfill its mission of protecting the nation from threats. This job poses constant challenges, as illegal immigrants still find ways and means to sneak into the country, as well as people who smuggle prohibited items. But where there is a need to safeguard the nation’s borders, whether in the air, on land or at sea, the US Customs and Border Patrol will be there to patrol the ports of entry and enforce the law.