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  5. Securing & Managing Our Borders

Securing and Managing Our Borders

Protecting the nation's borders—land, air, and sea—from the illegal entry of people, weapons, drugs, and contraband is vital to our homeland security, as well as economic prosperity. Over the past several years, DHS has deployed unprecedented levels of personnel, technology, and resources to the Southwest border. At the same time, DHS has made critical security improvements along the Northern border, investing in additional Border Patrol agents, technology, and infrastructure while also strengthening efforts to increase the security of the nation's maritime borders.

Southwest Border

Investing in Personnel, Technology, and Infrastructure

  • The Border Patrol is better staffed today than at any time in its 87-year history. Along the Southwest border, DHS has increased the number of boots on the ground from approximately 9,100 Border Patrol agents in 2001 to more than 17,700 today.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deployed a quarter of all its personnel to the Southwest border region – the most ever- doubling the number of personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces which work to dismantle criminal organizations along the border; increasing the number of intelligence analysts focused on cartel violence; and quintupling deployments of Border Liaison Officers to work with their Mexican counterparts.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has deployed dual detection canine teams, which identify firearms and currency, as well as non-intrusive inspection systems, Mobile Surveillance Systems, Remote Video Surveillance Systems, thermal imaging systems, radiation portal monitors, and license plate readers to the Southwest border.
  • CBP now screens 100 percent of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs, and cash, has expanded Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) coverage to the entire Southwest border and completed 650 miles of fencing.
  • President Obama authorized the temporary deployment of up to 1,200 additional National Guard personnel as a bridge to longer-term enhancements in border protection, and law enforcement personnel from DHS to target illicit networks' trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, money, and the violence associated with these illegal activities.

Fewer Apprehensions and Increased Interdiction of Drugs, Weapons, and Currency

  • Illegal immigration attempts, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions, have decreased 36 percent in the past two years, and are less than one third of what they were at their peak.
  • Over the past two and a half years, DHS has seized 75 percent more currency, 31 percent more drugs, and 64 percent more weapons along the Southwest border as compared to the last two and a half years during the previous Administration.

International Partnerships

  • In 2010, Presidents Obama and Calderon issued a Declaration on 21st Century Border Management, to pursue initiatives that will expedite the legitimate flow of people and goods and focus law enforcement resources on those people and goods that represent the highest risk or about which officials know the least.
  • Secretary Napolitano and her Mexican counterparts have signed numerous bilateral agreements and declarations to deepen cooperation and collaboration in the areas of enforcement, planning, information and intelligence sharing, joint operations, and trade facilitation along the Southwest border.

Northern Border

  • International Partnerships: In February 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper of Canada signed the "Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness." The "Shared Vision" emphasizes shared responsibility for the safety, security, and resilience of the United States and Canada by addressing threats at the earliest point possible; facilitating trade, economic growth, and jobs; collaborating on integrated cross-border law enforcement; and partnering to secure and strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure and cybersecurity.
  • Boots on the Ground: Currently, CBP has more than 2,200 Border Patrol agents on the Northern border, a 500 percent increase since 9/11. In addition, there are nearly 3,700 CBP Officers managing the flow of people and goods across ports of entry and crossings along the Northern border.
  • Ports of Entry: CBP is using Recovery Act funds to modernize more than 35 land ports of entry along the Northern border to meet current security and operational needs.
  • Technology: DHS has deployed thermal camera systems, Mobile Surveillance Systems, and Remote Video Surveillance Systems along the Northern border.
  • Aerial Coverage: Approximately 950 miles along the Northern border from Washington to Minnesota are currently covered by unmanned aircraft, in addition to approximately 200 miles along the northern border in New York and Lake Ontario—none of which were covered prior to the creation of DHS.

Maritime Security

  • The United States Coast Guard (USCG) secures our nation's maritime borders through a layered security system that begins beyond the country's physical borders. At-sea presence deters potential threats, provides mobile surveillance coverage, increases warning time, engages smugglers at the earliest point possible, and enables USCG to address potential threats before they can cause harm to the United States.
  • USCG's Maritime Security and Response Operations include waterborne and aerial patrols as well as armed escorts of hazardous cargos and passenger vessels in order to reduce the risk of terrorism to the U.S. Marine Transportation System, critical infrastructure and key resources.
  • USCG has increased the presence and capabilities of maritime forces to address threats through the establishment of the Deployable Operations Group, which can respond rapidly to terrorist and weapons of mass destruction threats as well as Maritime Safety and Security Teams at critical U.S. ports, which focus on domestic maritime threats and post-incident response.

Border Security

  • Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative WHTI: In 2009, DHS successfully implemented the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) for land and sea travel to the U.S., requiring that U.S., Mexican and Canadian citizens present a passport or other secure travel document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. Prior to WHTI, U.S. or Canadian travelers could present any of numerous documents and simply make an oral declaration of citizenship.
  • Radiation Detection: Customs and Border Protection has deployed Radiation Portal Monitors and other radiation detection technologies to seaports, land border ports, and mail facilities around the world. In 2003, these systems scanned only 68 percent of arriving trucks and passenger vehicles along the Northern border, no systems were deployed to the Southwest border, and only one was deployed to a seaport. Today, these systems scan 100 percent of all containerized cargo and personal vehicles arriving in the U.S. through land ports of entry, as well as over 99 percent of arriving sea containers.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its many partners across the federal government, public and private sectors, and communities across the country and around the world have worked since 9/11 to build a new homeland security enterprise to better mitigate and defend against dynamic threats, minimize risks, and maximize the ability to respond and recover from attacks and disasters of all kinds.

Together, these efforts have provided a strong foundation to protect communities from terrorism and other threats, while safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Americans. 

While threats persist, our nation is stronger than it was on 9/11, more prepared to confront evolving threats, and more resilient in the face of our continued challenges.

Read the Implementing 9/11 Commission Recommendations, Progress Report 2011

Last Updated: 12/21/2022
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