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  3. Border Security

Border Security

Securing and managing our borders have been priority mission areas for DHS since its creation The United States shares 7,500 miles of land border with Canada and Mexico, as well as rivers, lakes and coastal waters along both borders. 

In addition, our international airports receive international flights, serving as the primary entry point into the United States for large volumes of travelers and commercial goods. Land, sea, and air borders are important economic gateways that account for trillions of dollars in trade and travel each year and are found in many of our nation’s largest cities and are integral parts of many American communities. 

Protecting our borders from the illicit movement of weapons, drugs, contraband, and people, while promoting lawful entry and exit, and lawful trade, is essential to homeland security, economic prosperity, and national sovereignty. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a DHS component, is one of the world's largest law enforcement organizations and the United States’ first unified border agency. CBP applies a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.  

Other component agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard protect our borders from the illicit movement of weapons, drugs, contraband, and people, while promoting lawful entry and exit, and lawful trade, is essential to homeland security, economic prosperity, and national sovereignty. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides support for processing and provides resources to local governments.  

In February 2022, Secretary Mayorkas announced the creation of the Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC), which leads the planning and coordinating of a whole-of-government response to the anticipated increase in border encounters.  

Information on Immigration Laws, Lawful Pathways, and Border Enforcement can be found here and are detailed below.

Enabling fair, competitive and compliant trade and enforcing U.S. laws to ensure safety, prosperity and economic security for the American people are a priority for DHS.  On a typical day, DHS monitors and operates 328 U.S. ports of entry that screen cargo and passengers arriving by air, land, and sea; and vehicles entering the U.S. through our land ports of entry. In doing so, DHS every day will inspect and clear 91,065 truck, rail, and sea containers, and 10,572 shipments of goods, collecting more than $306 million in duty, taxes, and fees. On a daily basis, DHS seizes $8.2 million worth of goods for intellectual property rights violations.

More than a million times each day, DHS welcomes international travelers into the U.S. In screening foreign visitors, returning U.S. citizens, and Lawful Permanent Residents, DHS agencies use a variety of techniques to assure that global tourism remains safe and strong.  Among those, DHS pre-screens 263,000 passengers on international flights that fly into, out of, within, or over the United States. 

Expanding Trusted Traveler Programs, like TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI increases the ability to quickly facilitate known, low risk "trusted travelers" arriving in the United States. This makes it faster and easier for millions of visitors and business people to cross the border while allowing DHS Officers and Agents additional time to focus on higher risk, unknown travelers. 

Over the past decade, there has been a fundamental change in migration patterns that has far-reaching impacts for DHS and the broader U.S. immigration system. The displacement of people across the region is greater than at any time since World War II. 

To address these hemispheric migration trends, DHS developed and continues to implement a six-pillar Southwest Border Security and Preparedness Plan: surging resources; increasing efficiency to reduce strain on the border; administering consequences for unlawful entry or irregular entry such as a five-year bar on admission; bolstering the capacity of NGOs and working with state and local partners; targeting and disrupting networks of cartels and smugglers; and working with our regional partners to deter irregular migration.  

DHS also works closely with Canada and Mexico, and our many federal, tribal, and territorial partners. 

The management of these migration trends is a shared responsibility among all countries in the hemisphere, as confirmed in the June 2022 Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. DHS will work with our interagency colleagues to engage regional partners to address the root causes of migration and enhance migration management and border enforcement through technical assistance, law enforcement cooperation, and migration agreements and arrangements throughout the Western Hemisphere. DHS will continue to work in close partnership across the Federal Government to help countries in the region enhance protection for migrants, create robust migration management mechanisms, foster economic opportunity, and increase resiliency to the effects of climate change within the region. 

DHS continues to confront increasing complexities placing the nation’s broken and outdated immigration system under greater strain. DHS will make investments in policy, technology, human capital, and infrastructure to better position our agencies to secure our borders, administer immigration processes, enforce our laws, and support matters of public safety and national security concern. These efforts will be designed to manage our borders in a safe, orderly, and humane manner, upholding civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy in ways that embody our nation’s highest values.   

DHS makes our borders more secure through personnel, technology, and infrastructure. Using high-tech assets such as drones and manned aircraft for aerial surveillance, sensors on border barriers, radar, and autonomous surveillance towers allows DHS to increase capacity and effectiveness at the border. 

U.S. Border Patrol agents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists, and Air and Marine Operations agents; along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents and Enforcement and Removal Operations personnel; and the U.S. Coast Guard protect America’s borders. These men and women prevent terrorists, drug traffickers, and illicit drugs from entering the United States while continuing their mission of seizing contraband and apprehending criminals and noncitizens who attempt to enter the United States without authorization or without documents sufficient for admission. 

Through increases in staffing, including an additional 300 Border Patrol agents allocated for Fiscal Year 2023; construction of and continued investment in new technology and infrastructure, including autonomous surveillance towers, sensors, radar, and aerial assets; investments to modernize the ports of entry; and stronger partnerships and information sharing, we are creating a safer, more secure, and more efficient border environment. 

  • Every day, DHS flies 225 hours and floats 79 hours in enforcement missions along our borders to disrupt the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and migrants.
  • Every day, DHS patrols more than 7,500 miles of our land borders with Canada and Mexico and more than 2,500 miles of coastal border.

Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) continue to threaten the security of the homeland through illicit narcotics smuggling and other illegal activities. On a typical day, DHS seizes 1,797 pounds of illegal narcotics, which criminal networks primarily traffic through ports of entry. In Fiscal Year 2022, DHS seized more than 1.8 million pounds of narcotics and 14,700 pounds of fentanyl. In March 2023, DHS launched new operations for a coordinated surge effort to curtail the flow of illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States, leading to 156 arrests and preventing over 5,600 pounds of fentanyl, over 3,500 pounds of methamphetamines, and nearly 1,000 pounds of cocaine from entering the United States in its first month. DHS counter-smuggling efforts leverage advanced analytics and intelligence capabilities at HSI and CBP, including investigative work and forward operating labs (FOL) at ports of entry. 

Additional Information

  • Migration and Borders

    Expanding Lawful Pathways + Enhanced Enforcement

  • Measuring Effectiveness

    DHS measures the effectiveness of border security.

  • Trade

    International commerce is critical to America’s economy, and the entire world.

  • Trusted Traveler Programs

    Trusted Traveler Programs provide modified screening for preapproved members and improves security by being more efficient during screenings at Ports of Entry.

  • Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative

    The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires all travelers to present a passport or other acceptable document that shows identity and citizenship when entering the United States.

Last Updated: 11/07/2023