Every year, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, through its Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers process more than 900,000 passengers and pedestrians seeking entry into the United States. Of this number more than 200,000 arrive by air; more than 600,000 by land; and close the 50,000 arrive by sea. This is a huge and very important task especially when viewed in the light of the primary mission of the CBP which is to prevent the entry of terrorists into the country.
The Immigration Inspection Program of the CBP is conducted by CBP officers who determine the admissibility of individuals at Ports of Entry (POE). The program encompasses the preinspection process performed by the Immigration Inspectors outside of the United States and the steps done to facilitate the entry and/or reentry of citizens and non-citizens into the country. Basically, U.S. citizens are automatically admitted upon verification of citizenship. The process is lengthier for aliens: They have to be questioned and their documents examined to determine if they are admissible based on the requirements of U.S. immigration law. The role of CBP officers is to determine the nationality and identity of each applicant for admission. Ineligible aliens, criminals, terrorists, and drug traffickers, among others are denied entry.
Aside from determining eligibility, a CBP officer is given the authority to search without warrant the person seeking admission and his or her effects if there is reason to believe that grounds of exclusion exist which only a search can disclose. This authority is given to CBP officers under the Immigration and Nationality ACT (INA) which is based on the law of presumption. The CBP explains: “An applicant for admission is presumed to be an alien until he or she shows evidence of citizenship; an alien is presumed to be an immigrant until he or she proves that he or she fits into one of the nonimmigrant classifications.”
However, CBP Officers may just not do anything they want when it comes to inspections. Their main goal is “to control and guard the boundaries and borders of the United States against the illegal entry of aliens” but they must do this in a way that they:
- Function as the initial component of a comprehensive, immigration enforcement system
- Prevent the entry of terrorists, drug traffickers, criminals, and other persons who may subvert the national interest
- Deter illegal immigration through the detection of fraudulent documents and entry schemes
- Initiate prosecutions against individuals who attempt or aid and abet illegal entry
- Cooperate with international, Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to achieve mutual objectives
- Contribute to the development and implementation of foreign policy related to the entry of persons
- Facilitate the entry of persons engaged in commerce, tourism, and/or other lawful pursuits
- Respect the rights and dignity of individuals
- Examine individuals and their related documents in a professional manner
- Assist the transportation industry to meet its requirements
- Respond to private sector interests, in conformance with immigration law
- Continue to employ innovative methods to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the inspections process.