Protecting our borders from the illegal movement of weapons, drugs, contraband, and people
Border Security: Safety and Challenges in 2022
The United States shares 7,000 miles of land border (including lakes, coastal waters, and rivers) with Mexico and Canada. Trillions of dollars in trade and travel cross US borders and serve as critical economic gateways into the US.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are the leading role players that keep US borders safe. Their main priority is to keep illegal weapons, narcotics, illegal immigrants, smuggling, and terrorists from entering the United States while at the same time allowing safe commerce and legitimate travel to enter.
Keeping US Borders Safe
US borders are protected and secured through three main elements: technology, personnel, and infrastructure. It also involves the DHS working closely with neighboring Mexican and Canadian states, local, federal, tribal, and territorial partners. Applicable laws are enforced by highly trained DHS Agents and Officers who apprehend over 1,000 individuals daily for suspected violations of US laws at border crossings.
The CBP’s primary responsibilities are to keep weapons and terrorists from entering the US. As one of the world’s largest law enforcement agencies, the CBP must also facilitate lawful international trade and travel into the US. CBP officers and agents work together with Marine Officers, Agents, and agriculture specialists to seize contraband and apprehend criminals and other groups or individuals from entering the US illegally.
The COVID19 pandemic brought global shipments of goods and travel to a stop in 2020. When international travel and shipments recovered in 2021 and 2022, it considerably strained all international border security agencies as consumer goods increased. At the start of 2022, the US CBP processed a record-breaking $236 billion with 2.8 million entry summaries.
US border security agencies face many challenges as they work to make all borders safe. There are migration, smuggling, and technological issues. The impact of the war in Ukraine continues to strain and disrupt our borders. Border security must employ the most advanced and industry-leading technology to ensure the safety of our borders.
There are obvious weaknesses in outdated inspection techniques and shortcomings in cybersecurity, technology, and automation integration at border crossings. Automation is key to increasing the border security agencies’ ability to handle unforeseen issues that may arise.
Global trade and travel will continue to increase, and hiring more personnel is not always the right solution. More agents and officials could have the opposite effect and cause more security risks. More advanced inspection and screening technology will allow fewer officials to handle increased traffic flows.
CBP agents rely on many elements to process traffic across borders. Profiling, canines, physical inspections, x-ray backscatters, and typical x-rays are implemented. Backscatters are an outdated technology that identifies organic materials like ivory and narcotics close to the exterior of vehicles. They can only penetrate a maximum of up to 10mm of steel.
As few as 20 vehicles per day may be screened at one checkpoint, and even then, those images can be minimally effective at detecting smuggled goods. Backscatter systems are also too slow since they’re only used as a secondary inspection mechanism to search a target after they’ve been identified as suspicious.
There have been costs and delays that have prohibited CBP officials from including scans in regular traffic. Drivers aggressively tailgate at border checkpoints and pass through too quickly sometimes for complete scans of vehicles to be completed. Sometimes vehicles are completely missed during this confusion.
More advanced cybersecurity and technology automation will significantly reduce the risks at our borders. Border personnel and agencies will be able to capture, organize, collate, and analyze more data without causing disruptions in the traffic flow of people and goods. Systems are designed with multiple capabilities to scan license plate numbers under vehicles, and CCTV feeds can capture images automatically. This will allow for better record keeping and data access across border sites.
Advanced software scanning vehicle systems like the Astrophysics HXC-LaneScan can adequately capture scans and generate complete images via an integrated single-screen display, processing images more effectively.