What Does A Border Patrol Agent Do?

"I want to pursue a law enforcement career that would allow me to protect our country from the threat of terrorists entering the United States. I want to apply as a border patrol agent with the Customs and Border Protection but I am apprehensive because I might not be able to do the job. Can you please tell me what a border patrol agent does so I can determine if I should proceed with my application?"

asked by Collin R. from Laguna Beach, California

The mandate of border patrol agents is definitely not easy. They are tasked with ensuring that terrorists, smuggled contraband and illegal aliens don’t gain access to the United States illegally anywhere in the 8,000 miles of international borders that the country shares with other nations. Aside from securing the nation’s borders, they also have to ensure that legal trade continues unimpeded and that tourists and migrants who are allowed by law to enter the country will not be hampered.

In order to carry out their responsibilities, border patrol agents are asked to perform various duties. They perform what is known in border patrol language as linewatching where they keep a close watch in international boundaries and coastal areas for aliens that might be illegally smuggled in various places in the border where there are breaks in security.

To do this, they conduct patrols in these areas using cars and all-terrain vehicles. In the event that the border is inaccessible with these vehicles, border patrol agents may use horses or bikes or they may even go on foot.

It is not uncommon for illegal migrants to still get into the United States undetected using breaks in the border. Border patrol agents also conduct traffic checkpoints on major thoroughfares leading inland and away from the border. Another purpose of these checkpoints is to prevent the entry of illegal drugs further into the United States.

Part of the work of border patrol agents is doing checks inside public conveyances like buses, airplanes, trains and boats headed for inland United States. These inspections seek to find illegal aliens before they get further away from the border and into the interior where they will be more difficult to find.

Border patrol agents perform their work in all kinds of weather conditions. They may be assigned to work with a partner or they may be the only one patrolling long stretches of international boundaries. Danger is also a natural part of the job. Border patrol agents may have to chase illegal aliens or engage in gunfire with drug smugglers and gang members in the course of performing their duties.

When they are not busy apprehending illegal aliens or protecting the country from terrorists, border patrol agents engage in information campaigns to deter illegal migrants from attempting to cross the United States illegally. Aside from the naturally difficult terrain that is home to wild animals like coyotes and the harsh weather conditions, they warn that illegal immigrants—children, in particular—may fall prey to violence, sexual trafficking or forced labor.

Career Spotlight: Border Patrol Agent

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