What is the United States Border Patrol?

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  • Written By: Jessica Reed
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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The United States Border Patrol is one of the United States federal law enforcement agencies responsible for preventing illegal aliens and terrorists from crossing any border into the United States. The United States Border Patrol is a branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which in turn is a smaller branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The border patrol also attempts to catch those involved in drug trading who are trying to cross into the United States.

Certain entry points are set up along borders to the United States and all people traveling to and from the U.S. must pass through inspection at these points. Border patrol agents are put on watch across the areas in between these legal points of entry. Members of the United States Border Patrol watch for people trying to sneak across the border without going through a legal entry point.

Both CBP officers and Border Patrol agents shoulder the responsibility of preventing illegal people and objects from passing into the country, but the two jobs perform separate functions. Each is a distinct part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Instead of patrolling along the border as the Border Patrol agents do, CBP officers monitor the people and items passing across the border through an airport, seaport, or other legal entry point.


As with any security and law enforcement job, border patrol can be dangerous. Those trying to cross the border illegally may have weapons and may become violent when confronted. United States Border Patrol officers must remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times.

Patrolling the border is a demanding job and Border Patrol agents must be on call 24 hours a day every day of the year. Some Border Patrol agents may monitor roadways or airports not found along the United States border. Typically, these are areas known as popular points of illegal entry into the United States.

The real jump in responsibility for the United States Border Patrol came after the 11 September 2001 terrorists attacks in the U.S. Anti-terrorism security rose dramatically and the Border Patrol's prime responsibilities changed. Stopping terrorists from entering the U.S. became one of the key responsibilities and new laws went into effect to try and increase the safety of those living in the U.S.

Despite tight security, it is impossible to stop all illegal aliens from entering the United States. A common problem in the U.S. revolves around deciding what to do with illegal aliens discovered living in the U.S. who have been there for years. The question arises whether to send them back or try and make them citizens. Some people fear that making illegal aliens citizens would encourage more people to try and cross the border.


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