What Does A CBP Officer Do?
U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) officers are at the frontlines in keeping the country safe from terrorists, undesirable aliens, weapons, drugs and other prohibited items. They work at the frontlines in the more than 300 ports of entry in twelve different regions of the United States. They are responsible for ensuring that customs regulations are followed in the entry points in the Southwest, Texas East, Northwest/Northern Border, West Coast, Midwest, Northeast, Central/East Coast and Southeast regions as well as those in Florida, Pacific, Hawaii and Alaska. In a nutshell, the job of the more than 20,000 CBP officers assigned in international airports, seaports and land border crossings is to determine if travelers and cargo should be allowed entry into American soil.
In a typical day, CBP officers perform passenger screening activities to find out if travelers have legitimate business in the United States and possess all the necessary documents to prove it. They are the first persons that passengers arriving into the country will meet. They are also responsible for performing physical checks, inspecting passports and other documents and allowing or denying them entry to our gates.
Aside from people, CBP officers are also tasked with looking into the passengers’ pieces of luggage as well as cargo to ensure that these do not contain any prohibited items or illegal drugs. The prevention of smuggling activities is an important part of their job so they do thorough checks of cargoes and containers found in commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, ships and airplanes. They may even use advanced tools and equipment as well as K-9 teams to help in conducting these inspections.
In addition to their role in the frontlines, CBP officers are also highly-involved in the fight against terrorism. They provide intelligence information or even work together with other law enforcement officers like the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, to identify terrorists who are already operating in the country or prevent others from entering. They may also work together with other agencies to seize weapons and other dangerous firearms. They coordinate with these agencies especially in matters that affect national security.
Although protecting the country from terrorists and preventing smuggled items from entering the country are important aspects of the job, CBP officers are also responsible for facilitating the flow of legitimate passengers and legal trade. They accommodate travelers from foreign countries who are able to show that they possess the legal documents to stay in the United States for business, pleasure or a combination of both. They also welcome back U.S. citizens who have traveled abroad and are returning home. They also see to it that cargo and luggage that don’t contain any prohibited items are allowed to pass through. They also ensure that imported items that have the proper documentation are allowed entry.
It is part of the job of the CBP officers to thoroughly talk with the travelers seeking to gain entry into the United States. They interview each individual thoroughly about their purpose in the country. They also check the documents and passports of each traveler thoroughly to ascertain that these are not fake. CBP officers need to pay particular attention to details not only in the documents but in the behavior and gestures of the person they are interviewing as well. Sometimes, those who have something to hide reveal their true intention through their actions. CBP officers have to be alert to these cues.
Due to the demands of the occupation, CBP officers have to be physically strong and mentally tough. Overtime and shift work are regular features of the job. The job also has an element of danger which might necessitate the use of firearms. CBP officers who are assigned to the K-9 team will have additional responsibilities in caring for his partner canine, nurturing their dog-master relationship and being able to understand the signs and signals given by their canine colleague. Those who are tasked to do surveillance work may have to go on travels overseas to gather intelligence information.
It takes a special kind of individual to perform the duties of a CBP officer. They have to be morally upright and have a sense of duty and patriotism in putting the welfare of the country above their personal concerns.