The United States Border patrol is the main American agency for detection, seizure, and prevention drug traffic to the United States from its borders. The agency faces considerable challenges in its war with drugs, however, with strong governmental support, it reaches significant results: it prevents and stops traffic of drugs.


The United States Border Patrol (USBP) represents a federal law enforcement agency. It provides enforcement of regulations and laws for the admission of transportation of goods into the United States of America as well as crossing the border by foreigners. The USBP is an agency within the US CBP (the Customs and Border Protection) and is a part of the DHS (the Department of Homeland Security). It should be mentioned that Customs and Border Protection has the biggest number of sworn armed law enforcement officers. These structures ensure security of country's borders and facilitate lawful trade by enforcing special regulations and laws concerning drug laws and immigration.

Mission of the United States Border Control

The main mission of the United States Border Control is to detect and prevent illegal transportation of drugs to the USA and apply measures against persons involved in such transportation. This is done by continual surveillance on the borders of the USA, questioning informants and recently apprehended individuals, and following existing tracks.

More than 21, 000 agents represented the United States Border Control in the last year. These agents control illegal immigration and drug trafficking mostly alongside Mexico-United States border.

Throughout its long history of existence, the United States Border Control performed a lot of different tasks and experienced a lot of changes in its strategy. In 2005, the agency adopted new strategy, one of the main tasks of which was detecting, apprehending, and deterring smugglers of drugs and other contraband. So, the main mission of the agency can be described in 2 words: detection and prevention (Border Patrol overview).

The agency prevents entrance of dangerous substances and individuals to the territory of the USA between the ports of entry. This is done by performing surveys, following up laws and regulations, using aircraft sightings and electronic sensor alarms, and following existing tracks. Among the most significant activities are trafficking of checkpoints along the roads and highways near country's borders, carrying out control functions in towns and cities, and checking various means of transportation.

Traffic checkpoints take place on the main roads, which lead away from the border to detect and apprehend illegal narcotics. Additionally, agents perform checking of interior-bound conveyances such as commercial aircraft, buses, freight trains, and marine crafts. Also, agents patrol canyons, deserts and mountains.

The United States Border Control agents use different types of equipment for performing their functions and a variety of methods to cover a huge territory. People and vehicles that enter the country illegally are detected by special electronic sensors, video monitors, and night vision scopes placed at strategic points throughout the border.

Patrolling is carried out on different means of transport:

  • afloat;
  • on vehicles;
  • on boats;
  • on horses;
  • bicycles;
  • all-terrain motorcycles.

The agents of the United States Border Control patrol about 6000 miles of Mexican-American and Canadian-American border on land and about 2,000 miles of coastal waters near the island of Puerto Rico and Florida Peninsula. The agency is patrolling borders during the day and during the night.

Marine control involves supervision of various sizes of marine crafts and their decks. The United States Border Control has more than 100 vessels, including inflatable-hull craft, and blue-water craft.

USBC Aggressive Programs for Recruiters

At the present moment, the United States Border Control performs aggressive programs for recruiters and prepares new agents. The agency improves its enforcement, infrastructure and involves new technologies annually. During the last years, much success was achieved on the Southwest border after the implementation of border control strategy and various control operations such as:

  1. Operation Hold the Line in El Paso, TX
  2. Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego, CA
  3. Operation Safeguard in Tucson, AZ
  4. Operation Rio Grande in McAllen, TX
  5. Arizona Border Control Initiative (ABCI) near the Arizona border.

These operations produced considerable results. In 2009, the United States Border Control seized more than 2,5 million pounds of marijuana and about 11,000 pounds of cocaine.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

The Department of Homeland Security unites and creates various federal law-enforcement agencies and collaborates with the United States Border Control to create a new agency US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after terrorist attacks in America that took place on September 11, 2001 (Bankston, 2010).

The United States Border Control proved to be one of the most effective agencies in the United States in the drug war. It is fighting against increasing drug-smuggling efforts on the south-western border. It has become one of the main agencies involved in these activities.

The agency actively cooperates with different law-enforcement departments, such as Immigration and Naturalization (INS), U.S. Customs, and the Department of Agriculture in order to perform preventive measures against illegal drug trafficking.

So, the United States Border Control represents some kind of a border between the law-abiding nation and those individuals or products that will harm it.

The United States in the Drug War

According to the official report of the agency, 329 post entries, 15 pre-clearance locations, 20 border patrol sectors, 46 air units (3 Radar/Communications location and 1 Training location), 71 marine units (1 maintenance location and 2 training locations) work on country's borders in fiscal year 2012. About 30,4 million trade entries were processed, while custodial and entity revenues amounted to $39,4 billion. The United States Border Control seized 2,8 million pounds of illegal narcotics, including 206,246 pounds of cocaine, 4,398 pounds of heroin, 3,859,381 pounds of marijuana and 15,810 pounds of methamphetamine (Performance and Accountability Report).

Among the main drug prevention and determination activities of the United States Border Control are border control checkpoint operations. These operations play significant tactical and strategic role in the National Border Patrol Strategy.

These operations are a combination of tactical and permanent checkpoints across American territory and are a special part of three-layer defense strategy aimed at ensuring security of the country. This strategy incorporates roving operations alongside the border, of line-watch operations on the border, and traffic checkpoints on highway away from country's border.

The United States Border Control pays special attention to searching for narcotics by tracking checkpoints to determine criminal elements by using major traffic arteries like egress roads from the border. This is because highways in particular represent rapid and inexpensive way to transport illegal cargo such as weapon and drugs form the majority of assets and to the inherent parts of the USA.

Agents of the United States Border Control are highly trained and qualified to identify suspicious transport by using various means such as visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and logic cues during inspection of the vehicle. The Agency also uses additional specialized resources, for example trained canines, to detect people and drugs, radiation detection equipment and Vehicle and cargo Inspection Systems (VACIS), which enhance agents' ability to prevent proceeding drugs on the territory of the USA.

In 2012, the United States Border Control carried out a lot of operations on the whole American territory and seized 4,905 narcotic-related events and incidents, which is 33 % of the total agency's narcotic seizure.

The CBP is the most effective law-enforcement and canine program in America. Border Patrol agents and CBP canine officers use specially trained canines to reduce threats, indicate illegal persons, weapons, agriculture and drugs at international mail facilities, at traffic checkpoints, commercial carrier hubs and along the border between checkpoints.

The Border Control Special Response Team (SRT)

The Border Control Special Response Team (SRT) Patrol Cocaine program includes special teams, who act in tactical high stress situations. These teams help control criminal activities along the border, determine illegal drugs and firearms, and combat border violence.

Nowadays, there are 963 Border Patrol teams along all US borders: northern, southern, and coastal.

Also, the United States Border Control established a canine horse patrol unit in order to allow canine to patrol alongside the handler riding on horseback. Canine teams are trained in different disciplines. In 2012, 371 canines were trained and used for patrolling American borders.

The United States Border Control implemented a lot of different programs and campaigns in support of its main purposes, one of which is the South Texas Campaign. The South Texas Campaign (STC) team focuses on joint integration planning process against Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO). These organizations present serious threat and risks in the south Texas corridor. The South Texas Campaign is responsible for preventing smuggling of significant volumes of both Mexican national and Other Than Mexican (OTM) narcotics, weapons, aliens, bulk cash and stolen means of transport as well as for prevention of associated violence and crimes in the United States, central America, and Mexico.

The campaign coordinates its actions for integration of intelligence, interdiction, and investigation of components to prioritize execution and support of focused and enhanced operations. These operations are based on a threat and risk. However, it is the only way to achieve the biggest impact.

Continuous establishment of joint inerrancy and creation of international targeting teams has significant effect on protection and patrolling of American borders. Teams vary in size and are created for different purposes. Usually they include CBP components, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), International Revenue Service (IRS), US Attorney Office, and other appropriate agencies.

The main aim of such groups is to provide oversight, coordination, and de-confliction of various the South Texas Campaign operations. This campaign is a result of apprehension of increasing illegal immigrant movement and drug traffic, especially methamphetamine in San Diego and Southwestern border regions (Aguilera, 2011).

The United States Border Control agency creates directions to increase the amount of personnel, technology, infrastructure, and collaboration with other agencies on this territory.

CBP Campaigns

In the first year of the campaign, the Customs and Border Protection seized about 4, 14 million pounds of narcotics. Border Patrol in Sector of San Diego territory seized over 1,000 pounds of cocaine, which was a 24 percent increase over a year; over 20,000 pounds of marijuana, which was 19 percent more than in the previous year; over 500 pounds, a decrease of 15 percent. Agents seized 394 pounds of methamphetamine, which was an increase of 28.5 percent from previous year. Total amount of seized drugs on the southwest border tallied over 10,000 pounds of cocaine, over 2 million pounds of marijuana, 4,5 pounds of heroin, and over 900 pounds of methamphetamine.

This lead to a situation, where smugglers tried to carry smaller quantities of drugs, which are harder to detect. So, the Customs and Border Protection agents increased the number and thoroughness of inspection of travelers. As a result, about 90 tons of illegal drugs were seized in the first year of the campaign in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

The Department of Homeland Security is greatly supported by the government to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of its actions. In 2013, Federal budget increased by $53,2 million from the previous year to ensure trade facilitation, border security and further drug interdiction actions (FY 2013 Budget and Performancee Summary).

Cocaine manufacture remains stable in the recent years because of continuous intensification, especially concerning vicinity, in the cocaine-manufacturing countries like Colombia. Traffickers constantly adapt new strategies and new methods of breaking laws and illegal transportation of drugs on the territory of the USA (World Drug Report, 2012).

Usually, trafficking of drugs from Mexico to the United States is controlled by Mexican groups. Previously, the most of cocaine shipments went by air. However, nowadays, the shipments are mainly carried out by semi-submarines or boats to Central American/Mexican corridor and to the United States in general.

Transportation of drugs is supported by the use of explosives and military arms, that is why it is very dangerous. However, it brings a huge profit to cartels. Only in 2010, about 200 MT of cocaine has been transported to Central America from Mexico. Regional 'cartels' received about $ 6 billion (Interdiction of Drugs).

Cartels earn their money from differences between prices of drugs in the countries-manufacturers and those in the United States. For example, in 2010, one kilogram of heroine cost $2,527 in Pakistan; $2,266 in Afghanistan, and $10,772 in Columbia. When in the United States, a kilogram of heroine had a price of $33,000-$100,000.

Negative Effect on US Economy

Drug war alongside American borders has considerable negative effect on US economy. Increasing interdiction on American border leads to additional hassles and delays, which obstruct billions of dollars in legal commerce each year. Cross-border smuggling operations become more expansive and sophisticated. US vulnerability to attacks became greater. Legal goods are stopped on border and are delivered to consumers with delays. Increasing transportation time increases cost of transportation and, as a result, cost of goods and products for common customers.

Not only foreigners arrange and are involved in transportation of illegal drugs on American territory. According to investigations, about 80 percent of agents for drug offences in the last year were citizens of the USA. The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) provided information that 75 percent of individuals arrested with drugs along the U.S./Mexican border were citizens of the United States, and 80 percent of drug busts where one or more American citizens took part. The CIR examined records of more than 81,000 drug seizures from 2005 to 2011.

Coordinative actions of governmental, state, and local authorities leverage and focus joint resources and increase the amount of seizures on southern, northern ,and coastal borders of America in 2012 year compared with 2011 year.

The united forces provide layered approach of strategically positioned personnel, technologies, and defensive infrastructure. Combined actions also incorporated the development of strong and effective partnership of various agencies on both sides of the border. For example, in 2011, the number of actual apprehensions on the Southwest Border between the ports of entry was 327,577, while in 2012, the number of actual apprehensions on the Southwest Border between the ports of entry was 356,873.


In 2012, the United States Border Control has displaced traffic along the Southwest Border forcing Transnational Criminal organizations into a constant state reorganization. This has been accomplished by targeted enforcement and the use of integration, information, and rapid response for mitigating risk in high density traffic areas along the Southwest Border, especially, in the Tucson Sector, in which the volume of apprehensions and traffic has been the highest in the region.

Intelligence, planning, and operating cycle employed by the United States Border Control allowed the agency to increase its influence for preventing illegal flow across the border, to decrease it, and to maintain it low in the future.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

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