U.S. Border Security: A Reference Handbook

U.S. Border Security: A Reference Handbook

U.S. Border Security: A Reference Handbook

U.S. Border Security: A Reference Handbook


The challenges facing U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are daunting. There are 19,841 miles of American land and water boundaries to protect, and 95,000 miles of shoreline and defined air space subject to homeland security surveillance. Additionally, the booming drug trade across the U.S.-Mexico border, combined with the ever-increasing number of migrants wanting to reach our land of opportunity, has resulted in a grim death toll: more than 5,000 known migrant deaths have occurred along the U.S.-Mexico border during 1995–2008, and in 2009, an estimated 9,635 Mexicans were killed in drug-related violence, with 2,573 people killed in Ciudad Juarez alone.

U.S. Border Security focuses on the contrast between border security before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This text also examines the controversial topics of illegal immigration, counterterrorism, drug and weapons trafficking, human smuggling, the impact of border security on the movement of people and goods, and the effect of the war on terrorism on civil and human rights.


The United States’ borders coincide with land, water, and the air. A border is a geographic boundary of a nation and defines its legal jurisdiction. Its borders define national sovereignty and the right to citizenship. National sovereignty is defined as “the possession of the sole decisionmaking authority in defining one’s policies” (Bagwell and Staiger 2003, 6). Every country exercises sovereignty, the right to make policy decisions, over the people, goods, animals, and plants allowed to enter and exit its borders. Nation-states like the United States protect their citizens by providing for security within their borders (Biersteker 2003). Yet the goal of security is not always compatible with the free movement of people and goods across borders—a source of economic security and improved living standards.

U.S. national security increasingly is based on good border relations throughout the more than 7,500 miles covering the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. Because these nations are the two largest trading partners of the United States, there are benefits from allowing the free flow of goods and services between the borders. However, there are concerns about allowing an unregulated flow of what are increasingly considered “dangerous goods and people”; therefore, border security is essential.

All citizens desire an optimal sense of security from foreign threats. National security involves legislating to secure borders against military attack and controlling the traffic in goods and people. Since 9/11 the prevention of international terrorism has . . .

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