|Employees 62,450+ (2016)|
Federal agency U.S.
|Annual budget $13.56 billion (2016)|
|Formed March 1, 2003; 14 years ago (2003-03-01)|
Preceding agencies Some functions of the United States Department of Agriculture Immigration inspectors from Immigration and Naturalization Services and the United States Border Patrol Functions of the United States Customs Service
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. It is charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs, and immigration. CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. It has a workforce of more than 45,600 sworn federal agents and officers. It has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
- Enforcement powers
- Civil penalties
- Criminal penalties
- US Customs Service
- US Immigration and Naturalization Service INS
- Reorganization 2003 to present
- CBP Officers OFO
- Agriculture Specialists OFO
- Import Specialists OFO
- United States Border Patrol USBP
- Air and Marine Enforcement and Interdiction AgentsAMO
- Employee morale
While its primary mission is preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, CBP is also responsible for apprehending individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally, including those with a criminal record, stemming the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband, protecting United States agricultural and economic interests from harmful pests and diseases, and protecting American businesses from intellectual property theft.
CBP has a workforce of over 58,000 employees, including officers and agents, agriculture specialists, aircraft pilots, trade specialists, mission support staff, and canine enforcement officers and agents.
There are 327 officially designated ports of entry and an additional 14 pre-clearance locations in Canada, Ireland, the Middle East, Bermuda and the Caribbean. CBP is also in charge of the Container Security Initiative, which identifies and inspects foreign cargo in its mother country before it is to be imported into the United States.
CBP assess all passengers flying into the U.S. for terrorist risk via Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and systems such as Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology US-VISIT, and the Student and Exchange Visitor System SEVIS. CBP also works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to screen high-risk imported food shipments in order to prevent bio-terrorism/agro-terrorism.
Through the Container Security Initiative, CBP works jointly with host nation counterparts to identify and screen containers that pose a risk at the foreign port of departure before they are loaded on board vessels bound for the U.S. CSI is implemented in 20 of the largest ports in terms of container shipments to the U.S., and at a total of 58 ports worldwide.
The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection program allows pre-screened, low-risk travelers from Mexico to be processed through dedicated lanes. NEXUS is a similar program on the country's northern border with Canada. Along both borders, CBP has implemented the Free and Secure Trade, which utilizes transponder technology and pre-arrival shipment information to process participating trucks as they arrive at the border. An agreement with Canada allows CBP to target, screen, and examine rail shipments headed to the U.S.
CBP has the authority to search outbound and inbound shipments, and uses targeting to carry out its mission in this area. Under Section 596 of the Tariff Act, CBP is required to seize and forfeit all merchandise that is stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced. CBP is also required to seize and forfeit controlled substances, certain contraband articles, and plastic explosives that do not contain a detection agent. In conjunction with the Department of State and the Bureau of the Census, CBP has put in place regulations that require submission of electronic export information on U.S. Munitions List and for technology for the Commerce Control List. CBP uses advance information from the Automated Targeting System and the Automated Export System to identify cargo that may pose a threat. CBP also works with the Departments of State and Defense to improve procedures on exported shipments of foreign military sales commodities.
Merchandise may also be seized and forfeited if:
Section 592 of the Tariff Act of 1930 is the basic and most widely used customs penalty provision for the importation of goods. It prescribes monetary penalties against any person who imports, attempts to import, or aids or procures the importation of merchandise by means of false or fraudulent documents, statements, omissions or practices, concerning any material fact. Penalties may be applied even in situations where there is no loss of revenue.
Section 592 infractions are divided into three categories of culpability, each giving rise to a different maximum penalty:
The Customs Modernization Act amended section 592 to apply existing penalties for false information to information transmitted electronically and allows Customs to recover unpaid taxes and fees resulting from 592 violations. It also introduced the requirement that importers use "reasonable care" in making entry and providing the initial classification and appraisement, establishing a "shared responsibility" between Customs and importers, thus allowing Customs to rely on the accuracy of the information submitted and streamline entry procedures. To the extent that an importer fails to use reasonable care, Customs may impose a penalty under section
US Customs Agriculture Specialist Officers are allowed to issue civil penalties in accordance with CFR 7 & 9.
In addition to the civil penalties, a criminal fraud statute provides for sanctions to those presenting false information to customs officers, with violators facing a maximum of 2 years imprisonment, or a $5,000 fine, or both, for each violation involving an importation or attempted importation.
U.S. Customs Service
Responding to an urgent need for revenue following the American Revolutionary War, the First United States Congress passed, and President George Washington signed on July 4, the Tariff of 1789, which authorized the collection of duties on imports. Four weeks later, on July 31, the fifth act of Congress established the United States Customs Service and its ports of entry.
For nearly 125 years, the U.S. Customs Service was the primary source of governmental funds, which paid for the nation's early growth and infrastructure. Purchases include the Louisiana and Oregon territories; Florida, Alaska, and Washington, D.C.; funding the National Road and the Transcontinental Railroad; building many of the United States' lighthouses; and the U.S. Military and Naval academies.
In March 2003, the Customs Service was dissolved to form part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division.
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
Shortly after the American Civil War, some states started to pass their own immigration laws, which prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in Chy Lung v. Freeman in 1875 that immigration was a federal responsibility. The Immigration Act of 1891 established an Office of the Superintendent of Immigration within the United States Department of the Treasury. This office was responsible for admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the United States and for implementing national immigration policy. "Immigrant inspectors", as they were then called, were stationed at major U.S. ports of entry collecting manifests of arriving passengers. A "head tax" of fifty cents was collected on each immigrant.
In the early 20th century Congress's primary interest in immigration was protecting American workers and wages – the reason it had become a federal concern in the first place. This made immigration more a matter of commerce than revenue; hence, in 1903, Congress transferred the Bureau of Immigration to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor.
After World War I, Congress attempted to stem the flow of immigrants, still mainly coming from Europe, by passing laws in 1921 and 1924 limiting the number of newcomers by assigning a quota to each nationality based upon its representation in previous U.S. census figures. Each year, the U.S. State Department issued a limited number of visas; only those immigrants who had obtained them and could present valid visas were permitted entry.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the Immigration and Naturalization Service from the Department of Labor to the Department of Justice in 1940.
Reorganization (2003 to present)
CBP became an official agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003, combining employees from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (specifically the Plant Protection Quarantine inspectors), the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (specifically, immigration inspectors and the United States Border Patrol), and the United States Customs Service. This transformation was led by former Commissioner Robert C. Bonner.
W. Ralph Basham was nominated to the post of Commissioner by President George W. Bush on January 30, 2006. Basham had 28 years of experience as a law enforcement manager, including serving as the head of the Secret Service and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. He had also served as the chief of staff for the Transportation Security Administration. It is the largest federal law enforcement agency that works closely with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In 2007, the U.S. Border Patrol joined two units, the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) and the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit (BORSTAR), to form the U.S. Border Patrol’s Special Operations Group (SOG), headquartered in El Paso, Texas. BORTAC and BORSTAR direct their nationally dispersed assets from SOG, providing the U.S. Border Patrol with immediate tactical and emergency response assets.
CBP Officers (OFO)
CBP officers are federal law enforcement officers in the largest CBP Office of Field Operations empowered to exercise the authority and perform the duties provided by law and Department of Homeland Security regulations, including making arrests, conducting searches, making seizures, bearing firearms, and serving any order or warrant. CBP officers have full law enforcement powers on and off duty. CBP officers defend against terrorist intrusion by identifying high risk individuals who are attempting to enter into the United States; stop criminal activities – such as drug trafficking, child pornography (including on computers, cell phones, and other electronic media), weapons trafficking, and money laundering – by inspecting vehicles and trucks; and prevent the illegal entry of individuals, the smuggling of prohibited goods, and other customs and immigration violations. Officers are armed with Heckler & Koch P2000 pistols chambered in .40 S&W, expandable batons, x26 Tasers and oleoresin capsicum pepper spray. In accordance with Public Law 110-161, CBP officers are covered under special law enforcement retirement, and all candidates must be referred for selection for this position before reaching their 40th birthday.
Officer candidates attend the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, in Glynco, Georgia for 20 weeks of paid training. Candidate training consists of basic law enforcement skills, including Anti-Terrorism; Detection of Contraband; Interviewing; Cross-cultural Communications; Firearms Handling and Qualification; Immigration and Naturalization Laws; U.S. Customs Export and Import laws, Defensive Tactics and Driving; Crime Investigation Site; Arrest Techniques; Baton Techniques; Examination of Cargo; Bags and Merchandise; Border Search Exception; Entry and Control Procedures; Passenger Processing; and Officer Safety and Survival. Those candidates selected for duty locations requiring Spanish may receive an additional 6 weeks of Spanish Language training. For more information on CBP Officer training, download FLETC Training PDF and reference the specific program title of Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Integrated Training Program (BCBPI). After a few years of service, qualified Officers may serve on CBP's Special Response Team after passing a pre-test and an additional five weeks of paid training at the U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) in El Paso, Texas.
CBP Officers may begin their careers in any region for which they apply. The duty region is selected during the application phase, and generally cannot be changed once selected. Proficiency in Spanish is a duty requirement only for those stationed along southern border regions, although it is not a requirement before being hired. CBP Officers stationed along southern border regions will undergo Spanish language training before coming on duty.
The CBP Officer position is categorized as a "critical-sensitive" position in law enforcement. For this reason, officer candidates must undergo a single scope background investigation (SSBI) before being appointed. In addition, officer candidates must undergo drug and medical examination, polygraph examination, two physical fitness tests, video based test, and structured interview during the pre-appointment phase.
Agriculture Specialists (OFO)
CBP Agriculture Specialists receive 11 weeks of paid training at the Professional Development Center in Frederick, Maryland as well as a post-academy training phase that varies in length according to their assigned port. Agriculture Specialists are stationed at international ports of entry located at airports, seaports, and land borders throughout the U.S. and along the Canadian and Mexican borders; they are also stationed overseas in various countries authorized by the United States to have the traveling public and agricultural commodities pre-cleared before entering into the United States. They are uniformed federal officers with the authority to conduct random inspections of luggage or items entering the country and the power to seize prohibited or contaminated items. Agricultural Specialists issue civil fines, not to be confused with collecting duty or tax, to both international travelers and commercial entities in accordance with the federal laws CFR 7 & 9; they do not however collect duty taxes. Although Agriculture Specialists work for and are sworn to uphold and enforce the laws governed under the jurisdiction of Customs and Border Protection, they are also tasked with enforcing the laws governed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). They serve as expert and technical consultants in the areas of inspection, intelligence, analysis, examination and law enforcement activities related to the importation of agricultural/commercial commodities and conveyances at the various ports of entry. Agriculture Specialists apply a wide range of federal, state and local laws and agency regulations, including those of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when determining the admissibility of agricultural commodities, or commodities in general, while regulating and/or preventing the introduction of restricted/prohibited products, harmful pests, diseases and potential agro-terrorism into the United States. They participate in special enforcement, targeting, and analysis teams charged with collecting and analyzing information and identifying high-risk targets; or conduct visual and physical inspections of cargo, conveyances or passenger baggage. The Agriculture Specialist plans, conducts, and supervises remedial actions such as treating, disinfecting and decontaminating prohibited commodities, conveyances, contaminants or agricultural materials.
The Agriculture Specialist position is categorized as a "sensitive" position in law enforcement and may be granted up to the "Secret" level security clearance. Candidates must undergo a single scope background investigation and a polygraph examination before being appointed. In addition, the candidates must undergo a video based interview as well as a drug and medical examination during the pre-appointment phase.
Import Specialists (OFO)
CBP Careers – Import Specialists interact with both importers and exporters and are responsible for decisions regarding a staggering variety of merchandise, manufactured goods, and commodities.
Import Specialists work side by side with law enforcement officers and legal professionals. They are responsible for classifying and appraising a portion of the billions of dollars’ worth of commercially imported merchandise that enters the U.S. every year. They determine which products may legally enter the country by enforcing laws protecting public health and safety, intellectual property rights, fair trade practices and the like. They may also play a key role in criminal enforcement team investigations of smuggling, commercial fraud, and counterfeiting. Import Specialists have the authority to issue penalties and fines, to seize prohibited or suspect cargo and to participate in negotiations and legal prosecution. Occasionally, Import Specialists may be given short-term assignments overseas as part of a multi-agency team. Responsibilities could include investigating foreign manufacturing facilities for violations involving child labor, product safety or other areas of concern to the U.S.
Seven weeks of paid specialized training enable Import Specialists to develop an expert knowledge of import and export trends, commodities, and industries, as well as complex international trade agreements.
CBP Import Specialists perform their mission at more than 300 ports of entry located at airports, seaports and land borders throughout the United States and along the Canadian and Mexican borders.
United States Border Patrol (USBP)
The U.S. Border Patrol Agent (as opposed to Officer) is a federal law enforcement agent actively patrolling a U.S. border to prevent persons from entering or leaving the United States without government permission. Agents detect and prevent the smuggling and unlawful entry of aliens into the United States, along with apprehending those people found to be in violation of immigration laws. Agents work to lower crimes and improve the quality of life in border communities. In some areas, Agents are deputized or have peace-officer status and use it to enforce local and state/territory laws. More than 20,000 Border Patrol Agents safeguard nearly 6,000 miles of land border the United States shares with Canada and Mexico, and more than 2,000 miles of coastal waters.
One of the most important activities for a United States Border Patrol Agent is "line watch". This involves the detection, prevention and apprehension of terrorists, illegal aliens and smugglers of both aliens and contraband at or near the land border by maintaining surveillance from a covert position, following up leads, responding to electronic sensor television systems, aircraft sightings, and interpreting and following tracks, marks and other physical evidence. Some of the major activities are farm and ranch check, traffic check, traffic observation, city patrol, transportation check, administrative, intelligence, and anti-smuggling activities.
All agents complete a 13-week paid "Basic Academy" training at the U.S. Border Patrol Academy in Artesia, New Mexico. Training includes such topics as immigration and nationality laws, physical training (PT), weapons and marksmanship. For those needing Spanish language instruction, an additional 8 weeks may be required beyond the 65 days of Basic Academy training. Border Patrol Agents must be willing to work overtime and varying shifts under arduous conditions, and be proficient in the carry and use of firearms. They may also be sent on temporary assignments on short notice, or on permanent reassignments to any duty location. All new agents begin their careers along the Southwest border, where a working knowledge of Spanish is required.
Air and Marine Enforcement and Interdiction Agents(AMO)
Aviation Enforcement Agents (AEA)
Air Interdiction Agents (AIA)
Marine Interdiction Agents (MIA)
AMO is the world's largest civilian aviation and maritime law enforcement organization. Its mission is to protect the American people and nation’s critical infrastructure through the coordinated use of air and marine assets to detect, interdict and prevent acts of terrorism and the unlawful movement of people, illegal drugs, and other contraband toward or across the borders of the United States. Air and Marine Interdiction Agents are endowed with the authority to enforce Title 8 (Aliens and Nationality) and Title 19 (Customs) of the United States Code in addition to the general law enforcement powers bestowed upon federal law enforcement agents.
This specialized law enforcement capability allows AMO to make significant contributions to the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as to those of other federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. AMO is uniquely positioned to provide direct air and maritime support to multiple agencies and to ensure the success of border protection and law enforcement operations between ports of entry, within the maritime domain and within the nation’s interior. To accomplish its mission, AMO employs over 1200 Federal Agents at 70 locations, operating more than 260 aircraft of 26 different types, and approximately 300 maritime vessels. It is one of the major operational components within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with the Office of Field Operations (OFO) and the Office of Border Patrol (OBP).
In July 2006, the Office of Personnel Management conducted a survey of federal employees in all 36 federal agencies on job satisfaction and how they felt their respective agency was headed. DHS (which includes CBP) was last or near to last in every category including
The low scores were attributed to major concerns about basic supervision, management and leadership within DHS. Based on the survey, the primary concerns are about promotion and pay increase based on merit, dealing with poor performance, rewarding creativity and innovation, and the inability of leadership to generate high levels of motivation in the workforce, recognition for doing a good job, lack of satisfaction with various component policies and procedures and lack of information about what is going on with the organization and complaints from the traveling public.
In June 2007, CBP Commissioner W. Ralph Basham announced to employees that the agency would be conducting 125 different focus groups in 12 different cities around the country to better understand their concerns as expressed in the Human Capital Survey. The agency is also going to give employees who are not a part of that focus group process an intranet virtual focus group where they can express their views and their concerns. The commissioner stated: "We are looking at this very seriously. We want to hear from the employees, we want to hear from these focus groups, we want to drill down on this survey." As 2011, more than four years after this statement was made, these focus groups have never been reported to have been held, nor have any plans been reported for them to be held in the future.
A November 2007 Government Accountability Office report showed that low staffing, training, and overwork is a large problem within CBP, and an average of 71 officers leave the service every two weeks.
In 2011, the United States Congress mandated that applicants to CBP jobs undergo polygraph testing. The agency polygraphs about 10,000 applicants annually. From the start of the polygraphing until August 16, 2013, over 200 confessions of wrongdoing had been made. Many of the applicants confessed that they had close associations with drug traffickers or that they were directly involved in smuggling of drugs and illegal immigrants. The agency accused ten applicants of using countermeasures. As part of the "Operation Lie Busters", the name of the crackdown on polygraph countermeasures, all ten were not selected for employment.
CBP Officers primary sidearm is the H&K P2000 double action LEM (Law Enforcement Modification) pistol in .40 S&W caliber. It can contain as many as 13 rounds of ammunition (12 in the magazine and one in the chamber). Like many other law enforcement agencies, the 12 gauge Remington Model 870 is the standard pump-action shotgun. The CBP issue Model 870 has been modified by Scattergun Technologies to CBP specifications including: an 14-inch barrel, a five-shot capacity magazine, a composite stock with pistol grip, and night sights with a tactical "ghost-ring" rear sight. CBP uses the .223 caliber Colt M4 Carbine (M4A1) as the standard long gun for CBP officers assigned to its aviation and maritime interdiction units, the CBP Border Patrol, the CBP Special Response Teams.
National Public Radio's Morning Edition reported that CBP radiation-detection equipment at ports is better at detecting kitty litter than dangerous weapons, and that U.S. borders are so porous that congressional investigators carrying simulated nuclear materials have walked across unchallenged.
In an article entitled "DHS Decision-Making: Competence or Character?", James Giermanski states that the fundamental problem within CBP is that the agency has weak and sometimes flawed management. He says that DHS and CBP suffer from "seriously flawed decision-making", citing the "door only" policy, radio frequency identification technology, and lack of focus on exports which contain bombs.
The agency's practice of performing internal document checks on buses and trains running entirely within U.S. territory has been called "coercive, unconstitutional, and tainted by racial profiling".
The United States Court of International Trade found that CBP improperly classified merchandise when it had untrained chemists testifying before the court. The court found that there were errors in the laboratory reports, that CBP destroyed the evidence, and the tests used by the chemist did not meet any Daubert standards.
During a federal court case for unlawful removal, CBP and United States Department of Justice attorneys cited the U.S. Supreme Court case of Garcetti v. Ceballos (04-473), which ruled that CBP employees do not have protection from retaliation by CBP managers under the First Amendment of the Constitution. The free speech protections of the First Amendment have long been used to shield whistleblowers from retaliation. In response to the Supreme Court decision of Garcetti v. Ceballos, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 985, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2007, and the Senate passed its version of the Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 274), which has significant bipartisan support.
In 2005, a merger of ICE and CPB was considered, following a review at the request Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that found morale and operational issues with ICE and the overlapping responsibilities the two agencies.
Canadian author and marine biologist Peter Watts accused customs officers of assaulting him and throwing him in jail for the night of December 1, 2009 when he was returning to Toronto from the U.S. Watts was tried before a jury and was found guilty of obstructing a federal officer. In April 2010 he was given a suspended sentence, and a fine. However, due to immigration laws, Watts' felony conviction prevents him from re-entering the United States.