U.S Customs and Authority

The United States customs and border protection (CPB) is a federal law enforcement bureau of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a department of the United States federal government.  The CBP is charged with conducting immigrations, customs and agricultural inspections at ports of entry located at the border. The sole responsibility of the United States department of homeland security is to respond to natural disasters and to protect the U.S territory from terrorist attacks. It is also charged with securing the borders, terminals, territorial waters and air, land and sea transportation systems in the U.S. This department works in the civilian circle to protect the United States within, at and outside it borders and is charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, and enforcing U.S regulations such as trade, immigration and customs. The CBP is also in charge of apprehending individuals attempting to illegally enter the United States and controlling the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband entering the U.S. This is aimed at protecting the flow of pests and diseases and protection of American businesses from intellectual property theft (This is CBP, 2008).

All foreigners seeking entry into the United States must first undergo inspection. Prior to the creation of the CBP, the department of justice’s immigration inspectors did most passenger inspections. Unlike customs and immigrations data, animal and plant health inspections are used to enumerate data for the purpose of an agricultural inspection and to prevent the entry of exotic plant and animal pests and diseases. The CBP is mandated with the assessment of all passengers flying into the United States for terrorist risk through the Joint Terrorism Task Force which is a partnership between various United States law enforcement agencies. It is charged with taking action against terrorism which may include investigation of crimes like identity theft and wire fraud. The CBP may also use systems such as the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) and the Student Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS).  It also works closely with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to screen food shipments considered to be of high-risk in order to prevent bio/agro-terrorism. The FDA is an outfit of the Department of Health and Human Services which is in charge of protection and promotion public health through the regulation and supervision of food, drugs and cosmetics.

The CBP also works closely with host nation partners through the Container Security Initiative (CSI) in order to screen and identify containers that pose a risk at the port of departure in the foreign country before they embark on board vessels bound for the United States. The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection is a program which allows low- risk, pre-screened travelers from Mexico to be processed through dedicated lanes. A similar program on the country’s northern border is NEXUS which is used to facilitate the swift passage of low-risk, regular travelers at the ports of entry. CBP has implemented the Free and Secure Trade program along both of these borders in order to make use of pre-arrival shipment information and transponder technology. This is aimed at screening and examining all shipments entering the U.S.

The CBP has the power to search all shipments, both inbound and outbound and is mandated to seize all merchandise that is smuggled, stolen or covertly introduced or those that do not contain a detection agent. In order to do this, it uses information from the Automated Targeting System as well as the Automated Export System to identify shipments that may pose a threat (MacHabala & Pasztor, 2004).

The United States currently has an amalgamated inspection operation at the borders where one inspection body i.e. the Department of Homeland Security is charged with examining people, plants, animals and cargo entering the country. The CBP is located in the directorate of Border and Transportation Security in the DHS and includes customs, agricultural and immigration inspectors as well as border patrol.

There are several reasons as to why merchandise may be seized and forfeited which include the lack of a federal license requisite for the importation and the importation of merchandise that is prohibited by a law relating to health and safety of the goods. Likewise, goods may be seized if they are intentionally marked in violation of their country of origin marking requirements and their packaging is in violation of copyright and trademark violations. Another reason that may lead to the confiscation of merchandise is if it is subject to restrictions requiring a visa or a related document from the country of origin and the document presented with the entry is not genuine.

Though it is impossible for the CBP to inspect every shipment arriving at the U.S ports, it has launched several initiatives intended to enhance the targeting of high risk shipments. Some of these initiatives include the Advance Electronic Cargo Manifest Requirement which is aimed at the receipt of accurate and timely information on cargo inspections. The Container Security Initiative is designed to prevent terrorists from exploiting shipments entering the U.S. Another initiative is the Customs-Trade partnership Against Terrorism which offers importers expedited processing of cargo requirements if they conform to the CBP (E.Lake & Robinson).

The most extensively used customs fine provision for the importation of goods is section 592 of the Tariff Act of 1930. It prescribes monetary penalties against any person who attempts, aids or imports merchandise by use of counterfeit documents or practices. These infractions are divided into three categories each with different penalties which are fraud, gross negligence and general negligence. According to this act, fraud is an intentional act or omission done to defraud the United States Department of Revenue. Gross negligence is defined as an act, with actual knowledge of, or reckless disregard of the significant facts of this legislation whereas negligence involves a failure to put into effect appropriate care in ascertaining the obligations under the same legislation. Additionally, persons presenting false information to custom officers or those involved in illegal importation or attempted importation of merchandise are provided with a maximum of two years imprisonment or a $5,000 fine or both (Wasem).

It has been argued that the reorganization of the border inspections will result to a more efficient and streamlined set of procedures at the borders with a comprehensible chain of commands. On the other hand, it has been warned that the different types of inspections are quite intricate and that this reorganization will only serve to aggravate competing priorities resulting in more people and goods being sent into secondary inspections.

There are several parameters of the border which have been put in place to control the entry of people and goods into the United States.  A major of these are the ports of entry. Currently, the united states has 317 official ports of entry which process all three transportation types i.e. air , land and sea. Physical boundaries are also other parameters which also contain ports of entry.  The United States land border with Canada is the longest non-militarized border in the world and spans 5,525 miles. It is reported that on a daily basis, an average of 250,000 people enter the united states from Canada and over 800, 000 from Mexico.  Other parameters include legal boundaries and functional equivalents which refer to the first practical detection point after the final port of entry or border crossing (Miller, 1981).

The United States operates border pre-inspection facilities at several ports and airports in several countries. Before boarding their aircraft, ship or train, passengers are required to pass through Immigration and Customs, Department of Agriculture and Public Health inspections. This process is aimed at reforming the border operations in order to reduce congestions at ports of entry and to ease travel between the pre-inspection location and some U.S airports that may not be well set to handle international travelers.  Preclearance applies to both U.S citizens as well as other nationals who are travelling into the United States. Some of the countries with preclearance ports are Canada, Ireland and France.

The current programs and policies aimed at improving border security can be grouped into pushing the border outwards to seize unwanted people or goods before they reach the united states, strengthening  the border through the use of technology and intensification of the border inspection process through effective use of intelligence. The CBP personnel carry out the duty of securing U.S borders by inspecting people and goods before their entry into the United States and by dispatching of border patrol agents to safeguard the border in between ports of entry in order to prevent people from unlawfully entering the country.

The first level of inspection is the primary inspection. This usually consists of a short interview with a CBP official, a cursory check of the traveler’s papers and a query of the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS). IBIS is an immigration information system that interfaces with other federal law enforcement and federal data systems. The second levels of inspections are the secondary inspections. A traveler is referred to these inspections if the CBP official is suspicious that the traveler may be violating the Immigration and Nationality Act or other U.S laws. During these inspections, the traveler’s documents are further examined and they may be expansively questioned regarding their travel documents. This may also involve the query of several immigration databases including those for terrorists.

In responding to the natural emergency situations, current doctrines dictates that;  first responders be organizations most familiar to the situation and the government.  If and when state and local governments become inundated by the disaster, state officials may appeal for help from the federal government. Therefore, federal agencies must always be prepared to provide support whenever needed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created in 1979, merging most of the separate disaster-related federal functions. This agency’s core function is to coordinate the response to a disaster, both natural or manmade that has occurred in the United States and has overwhelmed the resources of local and state authorities. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 saw the realignment of FEMA and made it a division of the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Under the Stafford Act, in order for states to access federal assistance, they must first make a major disaster declaration appeal that is reviewed by FEMA for presidential approval. This act also permits FEMA to foresee declarations and prepare federal resources when a disaster is impending, even though it has not yet been declared. FEMA’s Protection and National Preparedness (PNP) is accountable for leading efforts to enhance protection, prevention, response and recovery from disasters. The PNP is also mandated with the development of a strategy to guide the integration and recovery efforts and to enhance disaster preparedness within the community and at all levels. Despite the vital role of individuals and communities in disaster preparedness, FEMA still faces numerous challenges in enhancing this preparedness.

The ability of the disaster response community to communicate is vital to successful response and recovery efforts. The important emergency communication areas include the ability to communicate across different organizations, ability to maintain communications in the disruptive environment and the system’s ability to handle the increased demand that accompanies disasters. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in association with the DHS has been working to improve the emergency responders’ communication capacity.

The Logistics Management Directorate is FEMA’s major program office responsible for implementation and governance of logistics support and operations. Its core mission is to plan, sustain and manage the national logistics response operations in support of local emergencies and special events. This program is charged with the acquiring, storing, tracking and recovering commodities and property that aid in disaster management and preparedness. State and local governments are responsible for emergency evacuations. However, if these systems are overwhelmed by the task, they can call on FEMA for further assistance. The agency is hence required to provide direction, guidance and technical assistance on evacuation plans that contain integrated information in order to carry out a successful evacuation. It is also responsible for ensuring that sufficient resources are accessible for evacuation efforts.

A trained, efficient disaster workforce is crucial in disaster preparedness and management. In this concern, FEMA Is charged with the responsibility of adopting a strategic human capital plan and management of the disaster reserve workforce and management tracking systems. Standardization of the disaster workforce responsibilities and approaches is also is vital in the provision of consistent quality and efficiency in delivery of services. The CBP and DHS are essential in protecting the American people from terrorist attacks and as seen, they play a major role in disaster planning and emergency management through DHS’s agency FEMA.  Though it is impossible to carry out complete border inspections and control of people and goods entering the United States federal bodies may use several initiatives to control such problems.

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