United States Border Patrol

United States Border Patrol
United States Border Patrol
Common name Border Patrol
Abbreviation USBP
USA - Customs and Border Protection - Border Patrol Patch.png
CBP Patch worn on the right sleeve of the USBP uniform
Logo of the United States Border Patrol and the USBP patch worn on the left sleeve of the USBP uniform
USA - CBP Border Patrol Badge.png
Badge of the United States Border Patrol.
Agency overview
Formed May 28, 1924
Employees 20,200
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agency United States
Size 19,000 lineal miles
General nature
Specialist jurisdiction National border patrol, security, and integrity.
Operational structure
Headquarters Washington D.C.
Agency executive Michael J. Fisher, Chief, U.S. Border Patrol
Parent agency U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Stations Yes
Lockups Yes
Patrol cars Yes
Boats Yes
Planes Yes
Dogs Yes
Border Patrol
Former U.S. President George W. Bush in a Border Patrol dune buggy

The United States Border Patrol is a federal law enforcement agency within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is an agency in the Department of Homeland Security that enforces laws and regulations for the admission of foreign-born persons to the United States codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has more sworn, armed law enforcement officers than any other agency in the U.S. federal government.



Immigration inspectors, circa 1924

Mounted watchmen of the United States Immigration Service patrolled the border in an effort to prevent illegal crossings as early as 1904, but their efforts were irregular and undertaken only when resources permitted. The inspectors, usually called "mounted guards", operated out of El Paso, Texas. Though they never totaled more than 75, they patrolled as far west as California trying to restrict the flow of illegal Chinese immigration.

In March 1915, Congress authorized a separate group of mounted guards, often referred to as "mounted inspectors". Most rode on horseback, but a few operated automobiles, motorcycles and boats. Although these inspectors had broader arrest authority, they still largely pursued Chinese immigrants trying to avoid the National Origins Act and Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. These patrolmen were Immigrant Inspectors, assigned to inspection stations, and could not watch the border at all times. U.S. Army troops along the southwest border performed intermittent border patrolling, but this was secondary to "the more serious work of military training." Non-nationals encountered illegally in the U.S. by the army were directed to the immigration inspection stations. Texas Rangers were also sporadically assigned to patrol duties by the state, and their efforts were noted as "singularly effective".

The Border Patrol was founded on May 28, 1924 as an agency of the United States Department of Labor to prevent illegal entries along the Mexico–United States border and the United States-Canada border. The first two border patrol stations were in El Paso, Texas and Detroit, Michigan.[1] Additional operations were established along the Gulf Coast in 1927 to perform crewman control to insure that non-American crewmen departed on the same ship on which they arrived. Additional stations were temporarily added along the Gulf Coast, Florida and the Eastern Seaboard during the sixties when in Cuba triumphed the Cuban Revolution and emerged the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Prior to 2003, the Border Patrol was part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), an agency that was within the U.S. Department of Justice. INS was decommissioned in March 2003 when its operations were divided between CBP, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The priority mission of the Border Patrol, as a result of the 9/11 attacks and its merging into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States of America. However, the Border Patrol's traditional mission remains as the deterrence, detection and apprehension of illegal immigrants and individuals involved in the illegal drug trade who generally enter the United States other than through designated ports of entry. The Border Patrol also operates 33 permanent interior checkpoints along the southern border of the United States.

Currently, the U.S. Border Patrol employs over 20,200 agents (as of the end of fiscal year 2009),[2] who are specifically responsible for patrolling the 6,000 miles (9,700 km) of Mexican and Canadian international land borders and 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of coastal waters surrounding the Florida Peninsula and the island of Puerto Rico. Agents are assigned primarily to the Mexico–United States border, where they are assigned to control drug trafficking and illegal immigration.[3] Patrols on horseback have made a comeback since smugglers have been pushed into the more remote mountainous regions, which are hard to cover with modern tracking strategies.[4]


1986: Employer sanctions and interior enforcement

Border Patrol Agents with a Hummer and Astar patrol for illegal entry into U.S.

The Border Patrol's priorities have changed over the years. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act placed renewed emphasis on controlling illegal immigration by going after the employers that hire illegal immigrants. The belief was that jobs were the magnet that attracted most illegal immigrants to come to the United States. The Border Patrol increased interior enforcement and Form I-9 audits of businesses through an inspection program known as "employer sanctions". Several agents were assigned to interior stations, such as within the Livermore Sector in Northern California.

Employer sanctions never became the effective tool it was expected to be by Congress. Illegal immigration continued to swell after the 1986 amnesty despite employer sanctions. By 1993, Californians passed Proposition 187, denying benefits to illegal immigrants and criminalizing illegal immigrants in possession of forged green cards, I.D. cards and Social Security Numbers. It also authorized police officers to question non-nationals as to their immigration status and required police and sheriff departments to cooperate and report illegal immigrants to the INS. Proposition 187 drew nationwide attention to illegal immigration.

Inspection stations

United States Border Patrol Interior Checkpoints are inspection stations operated by the USBP within 100 miles (160 km) of a national border (with Mexico or Canada) or in the Florida Keys.[5]

El Paso Sector's Operation Hold the Line

El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Silvestre Reyes started a program called "Operation Hold the Line". In this program, Border Patrol agents would no longer react to illegal entries resulting in apprehensions, but would instead be forward deployed to the border, immediately detecting any attempted entries or deterring crossing at a more remote location. The idea was that it would be easier to capture illegal entrants in the wide open deserts than through the urban alleyways. Chief Reyes deployed his agents along the Rio Grande River, within eyesight of other agents. The program significantly reduced illegal entries in the urban part of El Paso, however, the operation merely shifted the illegal entries to other areas.[citation needed]

San Diego Sector's Operation Gatekeeper

A Border Patrol Jeep stands watch over the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, California.

San Diego Sector tried Silvestre Reyes' approach of forward deploying agents to deter illegal entries into the country. Congress authorized the hiring of thousands of new agents, and many were sent to San Diego Sector.[citation needed] In addition, Congressman Duncan Hunter obtained surplus military landing mats to use as a border fence.[citation needed] Stadium lighting, ground sensors and infra-red cameras were also placed in the area.[citation needed] Eventually the primitive landing mat fence was replaced with a modern triple fence line that begins over one hundred yards into the Pacific Ocean at Imperial Beach, CA and ends more than thirteen miles (19 km) inland on Otay Mesa where the mountains begin. Apprehensions decreased dramatically in that area as people crossed in different regions.

Tucson Sector's Operation Safeguard

California was no longer the hotbed of illegal entry and the traffic shifted to Arizona, primarily in Nogales (currently the largest border patrol station in the United States). The Border Patrol instituted the same deterrent strategy it used in San Diego to Arizona.

Northern border

In 2001, the Border Patrol had approximately 340 agents assigned along the Canada – United States border border. Northern border staffing had been increased by 1,128 agents to 1,470 agents by the end of fiscal year 2008, and is projected to expand to 1,845 by the end of fiscal year 2009, a sixfold increase. Resources that support Border Patrol agents include the use of new technology and a more focused application of air and marine assets.

The northern border sectors are Blaine (Washington), Buffalo (New York), Rochester (New York), Detroit (Selfridge ANGB, Michigan), Grand Forks (North Dakota), Havre (Montana), Houlton (Maine), Spokane (Washington), and Swanton (Vermont).

Border Patrol moves away from interior enforcement

Border Patrol crossing station in Webb County, north of Laredo, Texas

In the 1990s, Congress mandated that the Border Patrol shift agents away from the interior and focus them on the borders.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security created two immigration enforcement agencies out of the defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). ICE was tasked with investigations, detention and removal of illegal immigrants, and interior enforcement. CBP was tasked with inspections at U.S. ports of entry and with preventing illegal entries between the port of entry, transportation check, and entries on U.S. coastal borders. DHS management decided to align the Border Patrol with CBP. CBP itself is solely responsible for the nation's ports of entry, while Border Patrol maintains jurisdiction over all locations between ports of entry, giving Border Patrol agents federal authority absolutely[dubious ] nationwide[dubious ].

In July 2004, the Livermore Sector of the United States Border Patrol was closed. Livermore Sector served Northern California and included stations at Dublin (Parks Reserve Forces Training Area), Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield. The Border Patrol also closed other stations in the interior of the United States including Roseburg, Oregon and Little Rock, Arkansas. The Border Patrol functions in these areas consisted largely of local jail and transportation terminal checks for illegal immigrants. These functions were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The new strategy

Cameras add "Smart Border" surveillance.

In November 2005, the U.S. Border Patrol published an updated national strategy.[6] The goal of this updated strategy is operational control of the United States border. The strategy has five main objectives:

  1. Apprehend terrorists and terrorist weapons illegally entering the United States;
  2. Deter illegal entries through improved enforcement;
  3. Detect, apprehend, and deter smugglers of humans, drugs, and other contraband;
  4. Use "smart border" technology; and
  5. Reduce crime in border communities, improving quality of life.


The border is a barely discernible line in uninhabited deserts, canyons, or mountains. The Border Patrol utilizes a variety of equipment and methods, such as electronic sensors placed at strategic locations along the border, to detect people or vehicles entering the country illegally. Video monitors and night vision scopes are also used to detect illegal entries. Agents patrol the border in vehicles, boats, aircraft, and afoot. In some areas, the Border Patrol employs horses, all-terrain motorcycles, bicycles, and snowmobiles. Air surveillance capabilities are provided by unmanned aerial vehicles.[2]

The primary activity of a Border Patrol Agent is "Line Watch". Line Watch involves the detection, prevention, and apprehension of terrorists, undocumented aliens and smugglers of aliens at or near the land border by maintaining surveillance from a covert position; following up on leads; responding to electronic sensor, television systems and aircraft sightings; and interpreting and following tracks, marks, and other physical evidence. Major activities include traffic check, traffic observation, city patrol, transportation check, administrative, intelligence, and anti-smuggling activities.[3]

Traffic checks are conducted on major highways leading away from the border to detect and apprehend illegal aliens attempting to travel further into the interior of the United States after evading detection at the border, and to detect illegal narcotics.[2]

Transportation checks are inspections of interior-bound conveyances, which include buses, commercial aircraft, passenger and freight trains, and marine craft.[2]

Marine Patrols are conducted along the coastal waterways of the United States, primarily along the Pacific coast, the Caribbean, the tip of Florida, and Puerto Rico and interior waterways common to the United States and Canada. Border Patrol conducts border control activities from 130 marine craft of various sizes. The Border Patrol maintains watercraft ranging from blue-water craft to inflatable-hull craft, in 16 sectors, in addition to headquarters special operations components.[2]

Horse and bike patrols are used to augment regular vehicle and foot patrols. Horse units patrol remote areas along the international boundary that are inaccessible to standard all-terrain vehicles. Bike patrol aids city patrol and is used over rough terrain to support linewatch.[2] Snowmobiles are used to patrol remote areas along the northern border in the winter.


U.S. Border Patrol Agents patrolling the Bus Station in Detroit, Michigan. Immigration checks on trains, buses, and highways within 100 miles from the northern border have now become more common.[7]

In 1992 the Border Patrol had approximately 2,500 Patrol Agents on the job. Attrition in the Border Patrol was normally at 5%. From 1995-2001 attrition spiked to above 10%, which was a period when the Border Patrol was undergoing massive hiring. In 2002 the attrition rate climbed to 18%. The 18% attrition was largely attributed to agents transferring to the Federal Air Marshals after 9/11. Since that time the attrition problem has decreased significantly and Congress has increased journeyman Border Patrol Agent pay from GS-9 to GS-11 in 2002. The Border Patrol Marine Position was created in 2009 (BPA-M). This position will be updated to a GS-12 position sometime in 2010 or 2011. Border Patrol Field Training Officers may possibly be updated in 2010 to a temporary GS-12 pay rate. In 2005, Border Patrol attrition dropped to 4% and remains in the area of 4% to 6% as of 2009.[8]

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (signed by President Bush on December 17, 2004) authorized hiring an additional 10,000 agents, "subject to appropriation". This authorization nearly doubled the Border Patrol manpower from 11,000 to 20,000 agents by 2010.[9] At the same time, the number of illegals caught dropped from 1.2 million in 2005 to 541,000 in 2009.

In July 2005, Congress signed the Emergency Supplemental Spending Act for military operations in Iraq/Afghanistan and other operations. The act also appropriated funding to increase Border Patrol manpower by 500 Agents. In October 2005, President Bush also signed the DHS FY06 [fiscal year 2006] Appropriation bill, funding an additional 1,000 agents.

In November 2005, President George W. Bush made a trip to southern Arizona to discuss more options that would decrease Mexicans crossings at the U.S. and Mexican border. In his proposed fiscal year 2007 budget he has requested an additional 1,500 Border Patrol Agents. By 2012, the Border Patrol will have over 10,000 more agents. They are excepting 100,000 applications. By 2012, the U.S. Border Patrol will be one of, if not the largest law enforcement agency in America, the boarder patrol has not used it for the Canadian boarder believing only Mexicans hop boarders. Customs and Border Protection, (the Border Patrol's parent agency which includes the U.S. Border Patrol, air and marine operations, and the port of entry operations) will by far be the largest L.E.A. (which it already is) in America.

The Secure Fence Act, signed by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2006, has met with much opposition. In October 2007, environmental groups and concerned citizens filed a restraining order hoping to halt the construction of the fence, set to be built between the United States and Mexico. The act mandates that the fence be built by December 2008. Ultimately, the United States seeks to put fencing around the 1,945-mile (3,130 km) border, but the act requires only 700 miles (1,100 km) of fencing. DHS secretary Michael Chertoff has bypassed environmental and other oppositions with a waiver that was granted to him by Congress in Section 102 of the act, which allows DHS to avoid any conflicts that would prevent a speedy assembly of the fence.[10][11]

This action has led many environment groups and landowners to speak out against the impending construction of the fence.[12] Environment and wildlife groups fear that the plans to clear brush, construct fences, install bright lights, motion sensors, and cameras will scare wildlife and endanger the indigenous species of the area.[13] Environmentalists claim that the ecosystem could be affected because a border fence would restrict movement of all animal species, which in turn would keep them from water and food sources on one side or another. Desert plants would also feel the impact, as they would be uprooted in many areas where the fence is set to occupy.[14]

Property owners in these areas fear a loss of land. Landowners would have to give some of their land over to the government for the fence. Citizens also fear that communities will be split. Many students travel over the border every day to attend classes at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Brownsville mayor Pat Ahumada favors alternative options to a border fence. He suggests that the Rio Grande River be widened and deepened to provide for a natural barrier to hinder illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.[15]

The United States Border Patrol Academy is located in Artesia, New Mexico.

Special Operations Group

A Border Patrol Special Response Team searches room-by-room a hotel in New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina.
CBP BORSTAR canine team conducting rappeling training

In 2007, the Border Patrol created the Special Operations Group (SOG) headquartered in El Paso, TX to coordinate the special operations units of the agency.[16]

  • Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC)
  • Border Patrol, Search, Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR)
  • Air Mobile Unit (SDC/SOG/AMU)
  • Mobile Response Team (MRT)

Other specialized programs

The Border Patrol has a number of other specialized programs and details.

  • Air and Marine Operations
    • CBP’s Office of Air and Marine is the largest aviation law enforcement organization in the world, utilizing over 700 pilots, operating more than 290 aircraft of 22 different types including the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
    • Marine Patrol - Along the coastal waterways of the United States and Puerto Rico and interior waterways common to the United States and Canada, the Border Patrol conducts border control activities from the decks of marine craft of various sizes. The Border Patrol maintains over 130 vessels, ranging from blue-water craft to inflatable-hull craft, in 16 sectors, in addition to Headquarters special operations components.[17]
  • K9 Units
  • Mounted Patrol
  • Bike patrol
  • Sign-cutting (tracking)
  • Snowmobile unit
  • Infrared scope unit
  • Intelligence
  • Anti-smuggling Investigations Unit (ASU/DISRUPT)
  • Border Criminal Alien Program
  • Multi-agency Anti-Gang Task Forces (regional & local units)
  • Honor Guard
    • Pipes and Drums
  • Chaplain
  • Peer Support
  • Mobile Surveillance Unit

Border Patrol Organization

Michael J. Fisher, Chief of the Border Patrol

The current Chief of the Border Patrol is Michael J. Fisher. Chief Fisher succeeded David V. Aguilar, who is now the Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection in 2010.

Border Patrol Sectors

CBP Sectors Map.jpg

There are 20 Border Patrol sectors, each headed by a Sector Chief Patrol Agent.

Northern Border (West to East):

  • Blaine Sector (Western Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.) - stations; Bellingham, Blaine, Port Angeles, Sumas.
  • Spokane Sector (Eastern Washington State, Idaho and Western Montana)
  • Havre Sector Eastern (Montana)
  • Grand Forks Sector (North Dakota) Stations; Duluth MN, Grand Forks ND, Grand Marais, International Falls, Pembina ND, Portel, Warroad. Grand Forks is the only Sector to Deploy the new Resident Agent Program. This program was launched in late 2009 early 2010. The Resident Agent Program allows Border Patrol agents to work with Local, County, State, and other Federal Agencies to gain maximum effectiveness over such vast area.
  • Detroit Sector (Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan) - stations; Downtown Detroit, Marysville, Gibralter, Sault Sainte Marie, Sandusky Bay.
  • Buffalo Sector (New York) - stations; Buffalo, NY, Erie, PA, Niagara Falls, Oswego, Rochester, Wellesley Island.
  • Swanton Sector (Vermont)
  • Houlton Sector (Maine)

Southern Border (West to East):

  • San Diego Sector, stations; Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, Brown Field, El Cajon, Campo, Boulevard sub-station, Temcula, and San Clemente (San Diego County, California)
  • El Centro Sector, stations; El Centro, Calexico, (Imperial County, California) Indio, and Riverside (Riverside County, California)
  • Yuma Sector (Western Arizona) - stations; Wellton, Yuma, Blythe
  • Tucson Sector (Eastern Arizona)Stations; Ajo, Casa Grande, Tucson, Nogales, Sonoita, Naco, Willcox, and Douglas.
  • El Paso Sector (El Paso, Texas and New Mexico) - stations; Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Deming, El Paso, Fabens, Fort Hancock, Las Cruces, Lordsburg, Santa Teresa, Truth or Consequences, Ysleta
  • Marfa Sector (Big Bend Area of West Texas) - stations; Alpine, Amarillo, Big Bend, Fort Stockton, Lubbock, Marfa, Midland, Pecos, Presidio, Sanderson, Sierra Blanca, Van Horn
  • Del Rio Sector (Del Rio, Texas) - stations; Abilene, Brackettville, Carrizo Springs, Comstock, Del Rio, Eagle Pass North, Eagle Pass South, Rocksprings, San Angelo, Uvalde
  • Rio Grande Valley Sector (South Texas) - stations; Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Falfurrias, Fort Brown, Harlingen, Kingsville, McAllen, Rio Grande City, Weslaco
  • Laredo Sector (South Texas) - stations; Cotulla, Dallas, Freer, Hebbronville, Laredo North, Laredo South, Laredo West, San Antonio, Zapata
  • New Orleans Sector (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and West Florida)
  • Miami Sector (Florida East and South)



All Border Patrol Agents spend eleven weeks in training at the Border Patrol Academy (if they are fluent in Spanish) in Artesia, New Mexico, which is a component of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Those who are not fluent in Spanish spend an additional eight weeks at the Academy. Border Patrol Agent Recruits are instructed in courses including; criminal law, nationality law, and administrative immigration law, police sciences, self defense and arrest techniques, firearms training with pistol, shotgun and rifle, police vehicle driving, and other Border Patrol / federal law enforcement subjects.



The Border Patrol currently wears the following types of uniforms:

CBP Officers and Border Patrol Agents at a ceremony in 2007
  • Dress uniform – The dress uniform consists of olive-green trousers with a blue stripe, and an olive-green shirt, which may or may not have blue shoulder straps. The campaign hat is worn with uniform.
  • Ceremonial uniform – When required, the following items are added to the dress uniform to complete the ceremonial uniform: olive-green Ike jacket or tunic with blue accents (shoulder straps and cuffs), blue tie, brass tie tack, white gloves, and olive-green felt campaign hat with leather hat band. The campaign hat is worn with uniform.
  • Rough duty uniform – The rough duty uniform consists of green cargo trousers and work shirt (in short or long sleeves). Usually worn with green baseball cap or tan stetson.
  • Accessories, footwear, and outerwear – Additional items are worn in matching blue or black colors as appropriate.
  • Organization patches – The Border Patrol wears two:
    • The CBP patch is worn on the right sleeves of the uniform. It contains the DHS seal against a black background with a "keystone" shape. A "keystone" is the central, wedge-shaped stone in an arch, which holds all the other stones in place.
    • Border Patrol agents retain the circular legacy Border Patrol patch, which is worn on the left sleeve.

The Border Patrol uniform is getting its first makeover since the 1950s to appear more like military fatigues and less like a police officer's duty garb.[18] Leather belts with brass buckles are being replaced by nylon belts with quick-release plastic buckles, slacks are being replaced by lightweight cargo pants, and shiny badges and nameplates are being replaced by cloth patches.

Border Patrol (OBP) ranks and insignia

Location Title Collar insignia Shoulder ornament Pay grade
Border Patrol Headquarters Chief of the Border Patrol
US-O10 insignia.svg
Senior Executive Service (SES)
Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol
US-O9 insignia.svg
Division Chief
US-O8 insignia.svg
Deputy Division Chief
US-O7 insignia.svg
GS-15, General Schedule
Associate Chief
US-O7 insignia.svg
Assistant Chief
US-O6 insignia.svg
Operations Officer
US-O5 insignia.svg
Border Patrol Sectors Chief Patrol Agent (CPA)
US-O8 insignia.svg
SES or GS-15
Deputy Chief Patrol Agent (DCPA)
US-O7 insignia.svg
SES/GS-15 or GS-14
Division Chief
US-O7 insignia.svg
Assistant Chief Patrol Agent (ACPA)
US-O6 insignia.svg
GS-15 or GS-14
Patrol Agent in Charge (PAIC)
US-O5 insignia.svg
GS-14 or GS-13
Assistant Patrol Agent in Charge (APAIC)
US-O5 insignia.svg
Special Operations Supervisor (SOS)
US-O4 insignia.svg
Field Operations Supervisor (FOS)
US-O4 insignia.svg
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent (SBPA)
US-O3 insignia.svg
Lead Border Patrol Agent (LBPA)
No insignia
GS-12 (Non-managerial)
Senior Patrol Agent (SPA) (Note: Being phased out through attrition)
No insignia
Currently GS-12
Border Patrol Agent (BPA)
No insignia
GS-5, 7, 9, 11, 12
Border Patrol Academy Chief Patrol Agent (CPA)
US-O8 insignia.svg
Deputy Chief Patrol Agent (DCPA)
US-O7 insignia.svg
Assistant Chief Patrol Agent (ACPA)
US-O6 insignia.svg
Training Operations Supervisor (TOS)
US-O5 insignia.svg
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent (Senior Instructor)
US-O4 insignia.svg
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent (Instructor)
US-O3 insignia.svg

Border Patrol shoulder ornaments



Newton-Azrak Award for Heroism Commissioners Distinguished Career Service Award Commissioners Exceptional Service Medal Commissioners Meritorious Service Award Commissioners Special Commendation Award Chiefs Commendation Medal
NAl - Large Medal.JPG
Current Heroism Award
Proposed in 2002, Never Authorized
Border Patrol Exemplary Service 2.JPG
Proposed in 2002, Never Authorized
Proposed in 2002, Never Authorized
Proposed in 2002, Never Authorized
USA - Border Patrol Chiefs Commendation.jpg
Awarded from 2002-2004
NA Ribbon.JPG
Commissioners Excellence in Group Achievement Award Purple Cross Wound Medal Academy Honor Award Winner Border Patrol Long Service Medal 75th Anniversary of the Border Patrol Commemorative Medal
Border Patrol Group Achievement Medal.jpg
Proposed in 2002, Never Authorized
Border patrol Purple Cross 2.JPG
Current Wound Award
Proposed in 2002, Never Authorized
Proposed in 2002, Never Authorized
75 annm.jpg
No Longer Authorized for Wear
Border Patrol 75th medal ribbon 2a.JPG

Newton-Azrak Award for Heroism

The Border Patrol's highest honor is the Newton-Azrak Award for Heroism. This Award is bestowed to Border Patrol Agents for extraordinary actions, service; accomplishments reflecting unusual courage or bravery in the line of duty; or an extraordinarily heroic or humane act committed during times of extreme stress or in an emergency.

This award is named for Border Patrol Inspectors Theodore Newton[19] and George Azrak,[20] who were murdered by two drug smugglers in San Diego County in 1967.

Border Patrol Uniform Devices

Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue Unit (BORSTAR) Special Response Team (NSRT) Honor Guard Border Patrol Pipes and Drums Cap Badge
Bortac 5f1.gif
Device No Longer Authorized
HG Device.JPG
K-9 Handler Chaplain Field Training Officer Peer Support
BP Chaplain.gif
BP Peer Support.JPG



A Border Patrol Honor Guard Agent carrying an M14 rifle.

Border Patrol Agents are issued the H&K P2000 double action LEM (Law Enforcement Modification) pistol in .40 S&W caliber. It can contain as many as 13 rounds of ammunition (12 in the magazine and one in the chamber). Up until 1994 the Border Patrol issued its Patrol Agents a .357 Magnum revolver as their duty sidearm, a Smith and Wesson or Ruger model large frame, six shot revolver. The Border Patrol preferred this weapon because it did not jam in harsh conditions, like those of the southwestern border, and also because of the strong "stopping" power of the .357 Magnum cartridge. Although up until 1994 Patrol Agents could purchase a weapon from the agency list of approved authorized personal weapons for duty carry. This list included the Glock Models 17 and 19 pistols in 9mm, the SIG-Sauer P220 pistol in .45 ACP caliber, the Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver, and the Smith & Wesson Model 19/66 .357 Magnum revolver. The Border Patrol adopted the Beretta Model 96D, a .40 S&W caliber semi-automatic pistol (modified for Double-Action Only) (with a 12 round capacity magazines) as its duty issue sidearm in 1995. The .40 S&W caliber jacketed hollow-point cartridge was adopted because of its excellent "stopping" power and its superior ballistic characteristics over the 9mm cartridge. In late 2006 the H&K P2000 pistol was adopted as the Border Patrol's primary duty sidearm. The H&K Model USP Compact pistol and H&K Model P2000SK (sub-compact) and Beretta M96D .40 S&W caliber pistols are authorized as secondary sidearms.

Like many other law enforcement agencies, the 12 gauge Remington Model 870 is the standard pump-action shotgun. The Border Patrol issue Model 870 has been modified by Scattergun Technologies to Border Patrol specifications including: an 14-inch barrel, a five-shot capacity magazine, a composite stock with pistol grip, and night sights with a tactical "ghost-ring" rear sight. The old Border Patrol "anti-bandit" units used to use a 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun with a sawed-off barrel. This weapon had the designated name of a "Sidewinder." The USBP anti-bandit units were decommissioned in the late 1980s.

Border Patrol Agents also commonly carry the .223 caliber M4 Carbine and the H&K UMP .40 caliber submachine gun. The .308 caliber M14 rifle is used for mostly ceremonial purposes and by BORTAC in special situations.

As less than lethal options, the Border Patrol also uses the FN303. The Border Patrol also uses compressed-air cartridge powered guns that fire plastic pellet balls containing OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) Pepper dust. The plastic pellet balls burst on impact spraying the suspect with OC Pepper dust. This dust stings the eyes, skin, nose and throat and causes the eyes to water severely thus temporarily disabling a suspect. The Border Patrol also issues its agents OC Pepper spray canisters, tasers and a collapsible, telescopic (or telescoping) steel police baton.


Unlike in many other law enforcement agencies in the United States, the Border Patrol operates over 10,000 SUVs and pickup trucks, which are known for their capabilities to move around in any sort of terrain. This vehicles may have individual revolving lights (strobes or LEDs) and/or light bars and sirens. An extensive modernization drive has ensured that these vehicles are equipped with wireless sets in communication with a central control room. Border Patrol vehicles may also have equipment such as emergency first aid kits. Some sectors make use of sedans like the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor or the Dodge Charger as patrol cars or high speed "interceptors" on highways. The border patrol has appox 2000 sedans. The Border Patrol also operates ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and small boats in the riverine and coastal environments.

In 2005, all Border Patrol and ICE aircraft operations were combined under CBP's Office of Air and Marine. All CBP vessel operation in Customs Waters are conducted by Office of Air and Marine.

Color schemes of Border Patrol vehicles are either a long green stripe running the length of the vehicle (older vehicles) or a broad green diagonal stripe (newer vehicles) on the door. Most Border Patrol vehicles are painted predominantly white. During the 1960s to mid 1980's BP vehicles were painted a light green.

The Border Patrol also extensively uses horses for remote area patrols. As of 2005, the U.S. Border Patrol has 205 horses. Most are employed along the Mexico–United States border. In Arizona, these animals are fed special processed feed pellets so that their wastes do not spread non-native plants in the national parks and wildlife areas they patrol.[21]

Killed in the line of duty

The Border Patrol has suffered more in the line of duty deaths than any other federal law enforcement agency since the patrolling of the border began in 1904. On a daily basis Patrol Agents work in wilderness areas along the United States international border in areas notorious for alien smuggling, narcotics smuggling, and banditry.

Line of duty deaths

Total line of duty deaths (since 1924): 114[22]

  • Aircraft accident: 14
  • Assault: 2
  • Automobile accident: 29
  • Drowned: 4
  • Duty related illness: 2
  • Fall: 4
  • Gunfire: 31
  • Gunfire (Accidental): 3
  • Heart attack: 6
  • Heat exhaustion: 1
  • Motorcycle accident: 2
  • Stabbed: 2
  • Struck by train: 5
  • Struck by vehicle: 3
  • Vehicle pursuit: 2
  • Vehicular assault: 4

Armed incursions

On August 7, 2008, Mexican troops crossed the border into Arizona and held a U.S. Border Patrol Agent at gunpoint. Agents stationed at Ajo, Arizona said that the Mexican soldiers crossed the border into an isolated area southwest of Tucson and pointed rifles at the agent, who has not been identified. The Mexicans withdrew after other U.S. agents arrived on the scene.[23]

Death threats

On numerous occasions Patrol Agents have been fired upon from the Mexican side of the international border. Intelligence gathering has discovered bounties being placed on Patrol Agents to be paid by criminal smuggling organizations upon the confirmed murder of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.[citation needed] In 2009 Border Patrol Agent Rosas was murdered in an ambush while on patrol, it is unknown if a bounty was ever paid.

Ramos and Compean

In February 2005, Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were involved in an incident while pursuing a van in Fabens, Texas. The driver, later identified as Aldrete Davila, was shot by Agent Ramos during a scuffle. Davila escaped back into Mexico, and the agents discovered that the van contained a million dollars worth of marijuana (about 750 pounds). None of the agents at the scene orally reported the shooting, including two supervisors. The Department of Homeland Security opened up an internal affairs investigation into the incident.[24][25][26] Ramos and Compean were charged with multiple crimes. Ramos was convicted of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and a civil rights violation.[27] Compeán was found guilty on 11 counts, including discharging a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, which by itself carries a federally mandated 10-year minimum sentence. Without that charge, both agents involved would have received far shorter sentences. Ramos was sentenced to 11 years and a day in prison and Compean to 12 years.[28] On January 19, 2009, President Bush commuted the sentences of both Ramos and Compean, effectively ending their prison term on March 20, 2009,[29] and they were released on February 17, 2009.[30]


Death of Sergio Hernandez

Sergio Adrian Hernandez was a teenager who was shot once and killed on 7 June 2010 by Border Patrol agents under a bridge crossing between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico.[31]

Border Patrol agents claimed that there was a mob that was throwing stones at them.[31] They also claimed that Hernandez was trying to cross the U.S border and that he had already tried to do so in the past[citation needed].

On June 10 the Mexican president Felipe Calderón called on the United States to launch a "thorough, impartial" probe into the deaths of two Mexican nationals, including the 14-year-old Hernandez, at the hands of U.S. border police: "I demand the United States government conduct a thorough, impartial ... investigation, concluding with an establishment of the facts and punishment of the culprits".[32]

On June 12, 2010 the television network Univision aired cellphone video footage of the incident, after which Mexican legislators called for the extradition of the officer accused of the shooting.[33][34]


In 2006, a documentary called The Illegal Immigration Invasion[35] linked the scale of illegal immigration into the United States chiefly to the ineffectiveness of the Border Patrol. The film claimed that this is due to the lack of judicial powers of the Border Patrol and the effective hamstringing of the agency by the federal government. The film interviews people that deal with illegal immigration on a daily basis, as well as local citizens living in the border areas.

Allegations of abuse

  • There are allegations of abuse by the United States Border Patrol such as the ones reported by Jesus A. Trevino, that concludes in an article published in the Houston Journal of International Law (2006) with a request to create an independent review commission to oversee the actions of the Border Patrol, and that creating such review board will make the American public aware of the "serious problem of abuse that exists at the border by making this review process public" and that "illegal immigrants deserve the same constitutionally-mandated humane treatment of citizens and legal residents".[36]
  • An article in Social Justice by Michael Huspek, Leticia Jimenez, Roberto Martinez (1998) cites that in December 1997, John Case, head of the INS Office of Internal Audit, announced at a press conference that public complaints to the INS had risen 29% from 1996, with the "vast majority" of complaints emanating from the southwest border region, but that of the 2,300 cases, the 243 cases of serious allegations of abuse were down in 1997. These serious cases are considered to be distinct from less serious complaints, such as "verbal abuse, discrimination, extended detention without cause."[38]


Incidences of corruption in the U.S. Border Patrol include:

  • Pablo Sergio Barry, an agent charged with one count of harboring an illegal immigrant, three counts of false statements, and two counts of making a false document.[39] He pled guilty.[40]
  • Christopher E. Bernis, an agent indicted on a charge of harboring an illegal immigrant for nine months while employed as a U.S. Border Patrol agent.[41]
  • Jose De Jesus Ruiz, an agent whose girlfriend was an illegal immigrant, he was put on administrative leave pending an investigation.[41]
  • Oscar Antonio Ortiz, an illegal immigrant[42] who used a fake birth certificate to get into the Border Patrol admitted to smuggling more than 100 illegal immigrants into the U.S., some of them in his government truck,[43] and was helping to smuggle illegal immigrants and charged with conspiring with another agent to smuggle immigrants.
  • An unidentified patrol agent who was recorded on a wire tap stating that he helped to smuggle 30 to 50 immigrants at a time.[42]

National Border Patrol Council

National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) is the labor union which represents over 17,000 Border Patrol Agents and support staff. The NBPC was founded on November 1, 1965, and its parent organization is the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO. The NBPC's executive committee is staffed by current and retired Border Patrol Agents and, along with its constituent locals, employs a staff of a dozen attorneys and field representatives. The NBPC is associated with the Peace Officer Research Association of California’s Legal Defense Fund.[44] The president of the NBPC is George E. McCubbin, III.

National Border Patrol Museum

The National Border Patrol Museum is located in El Paso, Texas. The museum exhibits uniforms, equipment, photographs, guns, vehicles, airplanes, boats, and documents which depict the historical and current sector operations throughout the United States.

Border Patrol Foundation

The Border Patrol Foundation started in 2009 to respond to the need of the survivors of agents killed in the line of duty. The Border Patrol Foundation assists families monetarily and is attempting to expand its services into area grief education and support of those injured in the line of duty. The Border Patrol Foundation board members are a mixture of retired Border Patrol Agents and supporters.

In popular culture


  • Border Patrol by Alvin Edward Moore
  • The Border Patrol by Deborah Wells Salter
  • EWI: Entry Without Inspection (Title 8 U.S.C. § 1325 Improper entry by alien) by Fortuna Testarona Valiente
  • Tracks in the Sand: A Tale of the Border Patrol by Kent E Lundgren,
  • On The Line: Inside the U.S. Border Patrol by Alex Pacheco and Erich Krauss
  • Patrolling Chaos: The U.S. Border Patrol in Deep South Texas by Robert Lee Maril
  • The U.S. Border Patrol: Guarding the Nation (Blazers) by Connie Collwell Miller
  • My Border Patrol Diary: Laredo, Texas by Dale Squint
  • Holding the Line: War Stories of the U.S. Border Patrol by Gerald Schumacher
  • The Border Patrol Ate My Dust by Alicia Alarcon, Ethriam Cash Brammer, and Ethriam Cash Brammer de Gonzales
  • The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide by David J. Danelo
  • Beat The Border: An Insider's Guide To How The U.S. Border Works And How To Beat It by Ned Beaumont
  • West of the Moon: A Border Patrol Agent's Tale by D. B. Prehoda
  • The Journey: U.S. Border Patrol & the Solution to the Illegal Alien Problem by Donald R. Coppock
  • Border patrol: With the U.S. Immigration Service on the Mexican boundary, 1910-54 by Clifford Alan Perkins
  • Border Patrol: How U.S. Agents Protect Our Borders from Illegal Entry by Carroll B. Colby
  • In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security by Tom Tancredo


  • Border Patrolman, a 1936 film in which a Border Patrolman Bob Wallace, played by George O'Brien, resigns in protest after being humiliated by the spoiled granddaughter of a millionaire.
  • Border Patrol, a 1943 film starring William C. Boyd, Andy Clyde, George Reeves, and Robert Mitchum
  • Borderline, a 1950 film noir starring Fred MacMurray about drug smuggling across the U.S./Mexico border
  • Border Patrol, a 1959 syndicated television series, starring Richard Webb as the fictitious deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol
  • Borderline, a 1980 movie starring Charles Bronson about a Patrol Agent in Charge of a Border Patrol Station located in the hills southeast of San Diego, CA near the U.S./Mexico border. Bronson's character and the Patrol Agents under his command pursue and apprehend a violent human trafficker/smuggler played by Ed Harris who murdered a veteran Patrol Agent, portrayed by Wilford Brimley, who had intercepted the smuggler one evening bringing in a shipment of illegal aliens across the border. Their investigation leads to the breaking up of the vicious human trafficking/smuggling operation run by Harris's character.
  • The Border, a 1982 film starring Jack Nicholson as a Patrol Agent working on the U.S.-Mexico Border.
  • El Norte, a 1983 film portraying Central American Indian peasants traveling to the United States.
  • Flashpoint, a 1984 film starring Kris Kristofferson, Treat Williams, Rip Torn, and Kurtwood Smith.
  • Last Man Standing, a 1996 film starring Bruce Willis as a professional gunman and Ken Jenkins as Texas Ranger Captain Tom Pickett who is investigating the murder of an unnamed Patrol Inspector (played by Larry Holt) in the town where Willis's character is working.
  • Men in Black, a 1997 science fiction comedy action film starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith and Vincent D'Onofrio. The Border Patrol was portrayed as Immigration Inspectors in an unkind portrayal.
  • The Gatekeeper, a 2002 film by John Carlos Frey about the struggles of migrants at the Mexican/U.S. border.
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a 2005 film by Tommy Lee Jones about the accidental killing of an illegal Mexican immigrant by a Border Patrol agent.
  • The Shepherd: Border Patrol, a 2007 film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme
  • Linewatch, a 2008 film starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., as a Border Patrol agent defending his family from a group of Los Angeles gang members involved in the illegal trade of importing narcotics into the United States.


See also

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  7. ^ Woodard, Colin (January 9, 2011), "Far From Border, U.S. Detains Foreign Students", The Chronicle of Higher Education, http://chronicle.com/article/Far-From-Canada-Aggressive/125880/ 
  8. ^ Nuñez-Neto, Blas (2006-010-25) (PDF). Border security: The role of the U.S. Border Patrol. Congressional Research Service. p. 35. http://digital.library.unt.edu/govdocs/crs//data/2006/upl-meta-crs-8464/RL32562_2006Jan25.pdf. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  9. ^ Kelly, Erin (3 June 2010). "Governor:Ariz. besieged". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 5A. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/06/03/20100603brewer-obama-discuss-border.html. 
  10. ^ Coyle, Marcia (2008-03-03). "Waivers for border fence challenged: Environmental groups take their complaints to Supreme Court". The Recorder. 
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  15. ^ "Expansive border fence stirs fights over land". Tell Me More. NPR. 2008-03-03.
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  21. ^ Rostien, Arthur H. (2005-06-09). "Border Patrol horses get special feed that helps protect desert ecosystem". Environmental News Network. http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/1731. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
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  25. ^ "2 Border Patrol agents face 20 years in prison". WorldDailyNet. 2006-08-07. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=51417. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  26. ^ "Ramos and Campean - court appeal". http://www.scribd.com/doc/219384/Ramos-and-Campean-Court-Appeal. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  27. ^ Seper, Jerry (2006-08-23). "Lawmakers seek review of border agent case". The Washington Times. http://washingtontimes.com/national/20060823-122228-3575r.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-14. 
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  29. ^ Riechmann, Deb. "Bush commutes prison sentences of 2 former U.S. border agents", Associated Press, January 19, 2009.
  30. ^ Breaking News: Former El Paso Border Patrol Agents Released From Prison
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  37. ^ United States of America: Human rights concerns in the border region with Mexico. Amnesty International. 1998-05-19. Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071021020708/http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/engAMR510031998. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
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    The data compiled in this report suggest that law enforcement in the southwest region of the United States may be verging on lawlessness. This statement receives fuller support from announcements emanating from the INS. In December 1997, John Chase, head of the INS Office of Internal Audit, announced at a press conference that public complaints to the INS had risen 29% from 1996, with the "vast majority" of complaints emanating from the southwest border region. Over 2,300 complaints were filed in 1997 as opposed to the 1,813 complaints filed in 1996. Another 400 reports of "minor misconduct" were placed in a new category. Chase was quick to emphasize, however, that the 243 "serious" allegations of abuse and use of excessive force that could warrant criminal prosecution were down in 1997, as compared with the 328 in 1996. These "serious" cases are considered to be distinct from less serious complaints, such as "verbal abuse, discrimination, extended detention without cause.

  39. ^ "Border agent accused of hiding an illegal entrant". Arizona Daily Star. 2005-06-23. http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/border/81082.php. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  40. ^ "Border agent pleads guilty to harboring illegal entrant". Arizona Daily Star. 2005-09-22. http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/border/94491.php. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  41. ^ a b "U.S. border agent indicted". Arizona Daily Star. 2005-03-11. http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/border/65117.php. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  42. ^ a b "Boarder agent said to also be smuggler". SignOnSanDiego.com. Union-Tribune Publishing. 2005-08-05. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/mexico/tijuana/20050805-9999-7m5agent.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-01. [dead link]
  43. ^ Spagat, Elliot (2006-07-28). "Border agent gets 5 years for smuggling". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/28/AR2006072800910.html. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  44. ^ "About NBPC". National Border Patrol Council. 2008-08-14. http://www.nbpc.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=42. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 

Further reading

  • Kelly Lytle Hernandez. Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol (University of California Press; 2010) 274 pages; draws on previously lost and untapped records in a history of the force since its beginnings in 1924.

External links

External video

GAO and OIG reports

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