Processing an estimated $19 billion in trade annually, business in the ports of entry in this area is also no laughing matter. There are eight ports in Arizona and the magnitude of their duties in a year entails processing more than 24 million people and 375,000 commercial trucks. They also handle more than 7.7 million passenger vehicle inspections and 6.8 million pedestrian inspections. These were still 2010 figures and no doubt, it has grown in the past three years.Traditionally, one of the mandates of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is to ensure that the country’s borders are protected from illegal entrants and smuggled contraband. CBP Officers and Border Patrol Agents guard the more than 300 ports of entry and the long miles of land borders we share with our neighboring countries. One of the busiest border regions that agents have to keep a close watch over is the Arizona border we share with Mexico.
While lawful trade and travel through Arizona mean big business, the border we share with Mexico in this state is also where an estimated half of all drugs confiscated by the CBP is attempted to be smuggled from. In addition, half of the illegal immigrants who try to enter the U.S. are also arrested in Arizona.
This state of events led more than 60 federal, state, local, and tribal agencies in Arizona and the Mexican Government to work together in September 2009 to form the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT). By combining their capabilities and resources, they fight the individuals and criminal organizations that threaten the peace and order not only in the communities living in the U.S. but also that in Mexico—the other side of the border.
From the time it was launched, the Department of Homeland Security of which the CBP is an agency in has taken more steps to keep the Arizona border secure. More Border Patrol Agents are staffed in this area compared while at the same time employing more intelligence analysts to work along the U.S-Mexico border. They have also increased by five times the deployment of Border Liaison Officers.
Aside from employing more people, they have also strengthened the technology infrastructure in place in the region. More mobile surveillance units, thermal imaging systems, and non-intrusive inspection equipment are part of the assets that the CBP is using to help agents and officers do their jobs more successfully. National Guard troops have also been actively assisting CBP personnel by providing intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and support for counter-narcotics enforcement. Funding has also been increased as the DHS gave about $34 million in grants to Southwest states that would support the enforcement of border law.