CBP’s 20-for-20: The Establishment of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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The CBP ensign being raised at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.
The CBP ensign being raised at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C

On March 1, 2003, U.S. Customs and Border Protection was established as the nation’s first comprehensive border, travel and trade agency. The agency’s formation was a direct result of the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission, and was established within the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

The agency integrated four legacy agencies. The Customs Service, which was transferred from the Treasury Department, originates from the Fifth Act of the First Congress on July 31, 1789. Immigration inspection, from the Immigration and Nationalization Service, traces its roles to the establishment of the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration on March 3, 1891. INS also housed our enforcement functions, including Border Patrol, which was first authorized by Congress on May 28, 1924. The plant protection and quarantine inspection programs, from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the Department of Agriculture, traces its agriculture inspection roles to the passage of the Plant Quarantine Act on Aug. 20, 1912.

President George W. Bush and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge listen to CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner as he describes the mission of the National Targeting Center.
President George W. Bush and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge listen to CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner as he describes the mission of the National Targeting Center.

The agency’s mission is to protect the American people, safeguard our borders, and enhance the nation’s economic prosperity. With more than 60,000 employees, CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.

As the nation’s first unified border entity, the agency takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.

 

CBP’s Enduring Priorities

Counter Terrorism – Anticipate, detect and disrupt the threat of terrorists, their weapons and actions to protect the people and economy of the United States.

Combat Transnational Crime – Detect, deter and disrupt transnational organized crime that threatens U.S. national and economic security interests at and beyond the border.

Secure the Border – Protect the Homeland through the air, land and maritime environments against illegal entry, illicit activity or other threats to uphold national sovereignty and promote national and economic security.

Facilitate Lawful Trade and Protect Revenue – Enable fair, competitive and compliant trade and enforce U.S. laws to ensure safety, prosperity and economic security for the American people.

Facilitate Lawful Travel – Enhance, enable and transform the travel experience by anticipating, detecting and intercepting threats prior to and at ports of entry.
 

CBP’s History

CBP’s traces its historic beginnings to 1789. But it was the tragic events of 9/11 that forever changed the nation and later forged CBP into the evolving agency it is today. Since the agency’s establishment 20 years ago, CBP has continued to grow stronger, more dynamic and capable of taking on our nation’s most important challenges.

The three uniforms, from left to right, represent Border Patrol, Air and Marine Operations and Field Operations.
The three uniforms, from left to right, represent Border Patrol, Air and Marine Operations and Field Operations.

 

This is the first in a series of articles that will highlight significant milestones and achievements from the agency’s first 20 years.

 

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