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Mar 31, 2022 | Rommel H. Ojeda

What Does Customs and Border Protection Do for the U.S.?

-> This article is part of Documented’s Glossary. We want to make it easier to understand the U.S. immigration system. If you want to know more about different visa types and immigration terms, please check our updated library here.
-> To find useful information for immigrants, such as where to find free food or legal representation, check out our Master Resource Guide.

Following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) became the United States’ first border control agency solely in charge of processing people and goods crossing U.S. borders and stopping anyone or anything prohibited from entering.

CBP, alongside USCIS and ICE, took on responsibilities previously held by Immigration Naturalization Services after that agency was disbanded on March 1, 2003. The new agencies’ responsibilities were specified in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which was a direct response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The act increased immigration enforcement and created the immigration system that is still in place today. 

In June 2022, the Supreme Court issued a decision that limited the ability for private citizens to sue U.S. Border Patrol officers. The case, Egbert V. Boule, stems from a 2014 altercation at an inn on the Canadian border. While searching for a criminal on the premises, Border Patrol officers assaulted the innkeeper, who later sued for monetary damages for violations of his First and Fourth Constitutional Amendment rights. The Supreme Court shot down that lawsuit and affirmed that people who have been subjected to Border Patrol’s excessive force cannot obtain compensation in court.

While CBP obtained consolidated responsibilities relating to border security in 2003 that other organizations previously handled, border patrolling had existed since the 1900s when mounted immigration guards began policing the United States’ borders. In 1924, the Labor Appropriations Act formalized the Border Patrol and gave it authority over the areas between border inspection stations. Officers operated out of El Paso, Texas, but their duties spanned as far as California. 

Also Read: Organizations Serving Immigrants in New York

While the department’s initial focus was on the southern border, it shifted to the Canadian border during the 1930s as the government cracked down on liquor smuggling. In 1952, border agents gained authority to board transportation operations to search for undocumented immigrants. That’s also when undocumented immigrants traveling in the U.S began to be subject to arrest.

CBP is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the world with more than 60,000 employees. 

Also Read: How the Department of Homeland Security Was Created and What It Does

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