United States Border Patrol: A Brief Overview

Many Americans know and heard of the United States Border Patrol. They have their own show on the National Geographic Channel, where you can watch agents pick up, arrest, and detain illegal entrants. Both on the show and in real life, agents are assigned to monitor and protect the border. These are migrating immigrants throughout the deserts of Texas or Arizona, while some may be smuggling drugs others are in search of a better life. Seen in points of entry like El Paso, TX and others, the United States Border Patrol is watching. By helicopter or horseback, Border Patrol is out to protect the United States borders, from terrorist, illegal entry, and drug smuggling.

Since the birth of the U.S Border Patrol, immigration and terrorism has been directly linked. As early as 1904, agents were assigned to protect the northern and southern border of the United States, (“cbp.gov”, 2012). Formally called, U.S Immigration Service, agents prevented illegal crossing of migrants. With taxes and literacy requirements imposed on immigrants, many foreign nationals were prompted to enter the country illegally. In these early years, service agents primarily, “pursued Chinese immigrants trying to avoid exclusion laws”, (“cbp.gov”, 2012). However, it wasn’t until March of 1915 when Congress gave official authorization of border security by authorizing a group of guards to monitor and patrol land boundaries, (“cbp.gov”, 2012).

Just a decade later, Boarder Patrol received renewed attention. This was seen in the implementation of the Immigration Act of 1921 and 1924. When Congress later passed the Labor Appropriation Act of 1924, they “officially established the U.S Border Patrol for the purpose of securing the borders between inspection stations”, (“cbp.gov”, 2012). In 1925 Congress expanded their duties to include patrolling the coastal shores of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific and Atlantic coast, and the Great Lakes. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt combined the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization service. However, changes continued. This was seen later in 1940 when the Immigration Service was moved out of the U.S Department of Labor and into the U.S Department of Justice. Decades later the department was moved again. In March of 2003, that the “Department of Homeland Security was established and the U.S Border Patrol became part of the U.S Customs and Border Protection”, (“cbp.gov”, 2012).

Congressmen instated the first immigration policy in 1924 and in charge of U.S Customs and Border Protection. Their primary duty is to protect the borders of the United States. In doing so, they are enforcing the policy of the country which includes the immigration policy. U.S Border Patrol is partnered with other governmental agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service, and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the power force behind the various agencies and bureaus. Consequently, the role and responsibility of the DHS and their branch agencies is, “enforcing immigration law and acts to arrest, detain, return, and remove foreign nationals who violate United States law”, (Piper/Bach & Prest, 2010). This role and responsibility is the primary mission of the U.S Border Patrol. The interest that policy makers and governmental agencies have in immigration and immigration enforcement is to limit immigration into the country, eliminate illegal immigrants and those to enter the country without due process, and prohibit criminals and terrorist from entering the United States. The primary function of Homeland Security and their relationship with immigration policy was 9/11. Due to the threat of terror and terrorism, the U.S Border Patrol is also responsible for, “preventing terrorist and terrorist weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States”, (“cbp.gov”, 2012).

As illustrated by Congress , “people found in violation of immigration law may be allowed to deport voluntarily or may be removed from the country through a formal process of injunction, which can include the imposition of penalties (fines) or both”, (Piper/Bach & Prest, 2010). In 2009, more than half a million illegal immigrants were removed from the country and returned to their nation of origin, (Piper/Bah & Prest, 2010).  The majority of these entrants, 75%, come from Mexico, (Piper/Bach & Prest, 2010). They were liked removed through an expedited process. Expedited removals describe foreign nationals who were removed from the United States without a court order and deported without judge or jury, allowing them to be removed quickly and expeditiously. This large number represents the amount of people who attempt to enter the country illegally each year. It further illustrates the work done by Border Patrol. Arresting and deporting this large number is one year alone indicates that U.S Border Patrol is continuing its service of law enforcement and border protection.

The U.S Border Patrol has detailed grounds for deportation of foreign nationals. This data described by the Congressional Budget Office provided in full detail which includes:

  • Health Concerns
  • Criminal History
  • Security/Terror Risk
  • Prior Illegal entry
  • Previous Removal
  • Crimes of violence or child abuse
  • Becoming a Public Charge
  • Work without proper qualifications
  • Lack of Documentation
  • Immigration Violations
  • Falsely Claim Citizenship


Released in 2006, The Congressional Budget Office reported that, “apprehensions along the U.S border with Mexico accounted for over 98% of all apprehensions” where more than 1.2 million people were detained. U.S Border Patrol is responsible for patrolling and monitoring almost 6,000 miles of land boarders and over 2,000 miles of coastal waters, (“cbp.gov”, 2012). Knowing that Border Patrol apprehensions account for almost 100% of all arrests and detainees, it affirms the role that Border Patrol plays in the Department of Justice. It assures the public and others that America is enforcing laws and maintaining security at its borders.

Another important duty of Border Patrol is to monitor the nation’s points of entry for drug trafficking and smuggling. Drug traffic is very real and has negative effects on American society. It is responsible for acts of violence, burglary, prostitution, and broken homes. The National Criminal Justice Reference Service confirmed that, “controlling borders and ports of entry is vital in order to ensure the rule of law and prevent the flow of contraband — including illegal drugs”. This is because they primarily monitor the ports of entry along the borders of Mexico and Canada. Consequently, “the Border Patrol specifically focuses on drug smuggling between land ports of entry”, (“ncjrs.gov”, 2012). The Department of Justice indicated that reservation land or “Indian country” is a prime spot to transport drugs. This is not the only land of interest to drug cartels. There are other reservations located on the Canadian border and in New Mexico that are points of interest. Consequently, “drug traffickers exploit the vast stretches of remote, sparsely populated desert … to distribute illicit drugs in markets throughout the United States”, (www.justice.gov, 2010). To curve illegal drugs from entering the country the U.S Border Patrol is working together with other governmental agencies inside the Department of Justice. They developed a five-year plan called the Border Coordination Initiative, or BCI. The BCI, “emphasizes increased cooperation efforts supporting the interdiction of drugs, illegal aliens, and other contraband, while maintaining the flow of legal immigration and commerce”, (“ncjrs.gov”, 2012). Part of this coalition, they receive additional funds and resources needed to improve job quality and performance.

By maintaining “close surveillance, following up on leads, responding to electronic sensor alarms and aircraft sightings, and interpreting and following tracks”, the U.S Border Patrol is doing all it can to keep Americans and its borders safe, (“usborderpatrol.gov”, 2012). Keeping people from entering the country illegally, tracking terrorist and weapons of mass destruction, as well as monitoring drug cartels, the U.S Border Patrol has their hands full. However, their large amount of responsibility does not hinder them from conducting their duties at maximum performance. In 2009 alone, U.S Border agents “seized more than 10,900 pounds of cocaine and 2.6 million pounds of marijuana”, (“cbp.gov”, 2012). Border Patrol has historically been an ever changing agency that coincides with tends of the times. Consequently, the U.S Customs and Border Protections continues to maintain its duty of preserving America’s civil liberties by protecting the country from potential harm whether it be terrorism, drugs, immigration, or weapons.



  1. Caldera, S., & Piper/Bach, P. Congressional Budget Office, (2006). Immigration policy in the united states Retrieved from United States Congress website: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/70xx/doc7051/02-28-immigration.pdf
  1. National Drug Intelligence Center, National Drug Threat Assessment 2010. (2010). U.s southwest border smuggling and violence. Retrieved from Department of Justice website: http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs38/38661/swb
  1. Piper/Bach, P., & Prest, B. Congressional Budget Office, (2010). Immigration policy in the united states: An update. Retrieved from United States Congress website: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/119xx/doc11959/12-03-immigration_chartbook.pdf
  1. Office of National Drug Control Policy, U.S Department of Justice. (1999). National drug control strategy. Retrieved from Executive Office of the President of the United States website: https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/publications/policy/99ndcs/iv-f.html
  1. S Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security. (2012). Border patrol:       Overview. Retrieved from U.S Congress website: www.cbp.gov
  1. Usbp overview part 1. (2012, April 10). Retrieved from http://www.usborderpatrol.com

About Russia Robinson

I use my writing talents, and skills I’ve learned through academics and experience, to benefit the greater good of society. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I give informative information on a variety of topics and issues that affect society. I also write creative works like children’s books, short stories, poems, and a novel in progress. I earned a BA in English creative writing and American literature from San Francisco State and graduate studies in Technical Writing at Kennesaw State University. Through my career in education and mental health I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher, working in education, social services, and mental health. Interested in my writing services? Feel free to contact me via email.
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