Although most nations have some form of a national border patrol, most people tend to think of the United States when they hear the term. The US national border patrol is a part of the United States Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security. It is a federal law enforcement agency tasked with patrolling the United States border and monitoring immigration across that border. The national border patrol works to deter illegal immigration, the flow of weapons and drugs across the border, and terrorist attacks. Border patrol agents are commonly seen at ports of entry along any border of the United States.
While monitoring of the border by special agents has taken place in the United States since the early years of the twentieth century, it was not until 1924 that the national border patrol was officially established. The first national border patrol stations were in El Paso, Texas, and in Detroit, Michigan, and their day to day operations were aimed at stemming the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico and Canada, respectively. Historically, the primary goal of the national border patrol was to prevent illegal immigration, but after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, in which foreign terrorists managed to hijack airplanes and fly them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the primary goal of the national border patrol has since been to prevent terrorist attacks and the trafficking of weapons to be used by terrorists.
Enforcement of the border has traditionally involved armed patrolmen on foot or on horseback. In recent years, technology has improved, making border security more thorough, faster, and easier on agents. Since the border between the United States and Mexico is often indiscernible on the rough, remote terrain in that area, the task of preventing illegal immigration and drug trafficking remains extremely difficult. Armed patrol vehicles regularly monitor the border; border fences have been constructed with highly sophisticated sensors to detect movement; and even horseback patrols monitor the border over some of the rougher terrain.
The majority of border patrol agents are assigned to the border between the United States and Mexico. This patrol has been the recipient of much criticism, both from within the United States and without, concerning the effectiveness of the patrol's tactics and potential abuse of power. Many skirmishes have erupted on the border, each with its own set of details and events placed under intense scrutiny. Because of the tide of drug trafficking still taking place across the U.S.-Mexico border, the United States is constantly examining the effectiveness of the national border patrol and considering options for improving border security. Such plans have consistently been hot-button issues within the United States.