The Border Patrol currently wears the following types of uniforms:
- 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 tanstetson.
- 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. 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.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol agents assigned to the Yuma Sector will begin wearing new tactical-style uniforms Wednesday under a Border Patrol-wide program.
Other significant features of the new uniform are larger, more accessible cargo-style pockets that allow agents to carry more gear and a removable name tape and larger, brighter sewn-on badge that eliminate the need to wear current metal name tags and badges that can come off during daily operations.Though similar in color to the current field uniform, which has been in service for decades, the new uniform features material similar to that used by the U.S. military. Additionally, it provides agents with a lighter-weight, durable uniform that is not only more comfortable than the current field uniform, but is also more functional and will better meet the needs of agents patrolling the border.
Response by agents has been overwhelmingly positive and is seen by many as a step in the right direction to get agents the tools they need to safely conduct border security operations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
San Diego Sector’s Operation Gatekeeper
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. In addition, Congressman Duncan Hunter obtained surplus military landing mats to use as a border fence. Stadium lighting, ground sensors and infra-red cameras were also placed in the area. 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.
Through agency whistler-blowers it was reveled that in 2001, the Border Patrol had approximately 324 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
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 nationwide.
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. The goal of this updated strategy is operational control of the United States border. The strategy has five main objectives:
- Apprehend terrorists and terrorist weapons illegally entering the United States;
- Deter illegal entries through improved enforcement;
- Detect, apprehend, and deter smugglers of humans, drugs, and other contraband;
- Use “smart border” technology; and
- Reduce crime in border communities, improving quality of life.
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. 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), 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. 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.
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.