Customs and Border Protection: The Sentinel at the Gates

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was established on March 1, 2003 as the country’s “first comprehensive border security agency.” Today, it’s one of the world’s largest law enforcement agencies and the second-largest revenue-collecting source of the U.S. government.


The Daily Job of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

CBP secures air, land and maritime borders by preventing people from entering the country illegallyor bringing in illegal or harmful items. It also plays a key role in facilitating travel, from anticipating, detecting and intercepting threats at the country’s 328 ports of entry to overseeing programs like Global Entry. But the agency’s mission extends beyond what we might think of as border security to include counterterrorism and trade enforcement, too.

On a typical day, CBP will process more than 1.1 million passengers and pedestrians; arrest more than 20 wanted criminals at U.S. borders; discover nearly 4,700 plant, meat, animal and soil products for quarantine; seize over 3,700 pounds of narcotics, and more than $207,000 in undeclared or illicit currency. In FY 2020 alone, the Office of Field Operations seized 42,645 pounds of cocaine, 156,901 pounds of methamphetamine and 3,967 pounds of fentanyl nationwide. In a country facing a devastating drug and opioid crisis, the work of CBP is vital to keeping Americans safe.

The force of more than 60,000 employees includes uniformed agents, forensic scientists, international trade specialists, public affairs officers, and many other experts. Depending on the role, an officer could be enforcing customs, immigration and agricultural laws; preventing terrorists and weapons from coming into the U.S.; developing tactical operations; or preventing the illegal trafficking of narcotics, contraband – and even people - into the country.


Securing the Nation From the Things We Overlook

There’s a good reason why CBP is so strict on what you can bring across our borders, The Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak in the 1980s was caused by one person bringing home one piece of contaminated fruit. It cost the state of California and the U.S. government $100 million to get rid of the pest. Other things you can’t bring back? Anything containing meat products, including bouillon and soup mixes; gold originating in certain countries, such as Cuba; firearms and munition; certain cultural artifacts; some plants and seeds, etc.

Securing the borders also means protecting us from dangers we can’t actually see. When a national emergency was declared in March 2020 due to COVID-19, several CBP officers who usually train and certify field personnel stepped up for the greater good by creating the Coronavirus Coordination Cell. The officers coordinated the return of thousands of American citizens and permanent legal residents who were living or traveling abroad; helped develop CBP’s risk exposure guidance; designed curriculum to train emergency medical technicians at the heavily visited Southwest border; and researched and procured advanced medical equipment to send to the field.

As criminals have gotten more advanced in their tactics, so, too, has CBP and its agents. With the help of drones, Border Patrol agents now have eyes in the sky. Unlike the expense and coordination of a helicopter mission, drones can travel in patrol vehicles and be in the air within minutes. Agents use two types of drones—a quadcopter and a fixed-wing model that looks like a model airplane—that work from Department of Defense-approved systems and can even fly themselves. By using technology, CBP keeps agents safer and allows them to work smarter.


In a time when threats to national security come from all angles, the men and women of CBP work on the front lines, and behind the scenes, to keep Americans safe.



Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA. This article is offered solely for informational purposes. Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.