Big Ideas Opinion

Explainer: Customs & Border Protection


CBP: an awkward acronym for US Customs and Border Protection that has suddenly jumped into our newfeeds and lives. Not just the guys who pointlessly make a huge line when you only want to sleep off your jet lag, the CBP was on the front lines of implementing a cruel, possibly unconstitutional order, and they went above and beyond the call of duty, handcuffing five-year-olds and withholding food and drink from mothers and elderly people for up to 20 hours. They refused to allow detainees to have access to legal counsel; they bullied people into signing away their rights; they refused access to Congressional representatives; and they continued this bullying behavior for several days after a federal court order told them to stop. They even detained an American citizen.

Descriptions of the unnecessary abuses:

CBP denies lawyers and elected officials access to detainees:

American citizen (natural born) detained despite being enrolled in Global Entry and held until he allowed his NASA-issued phone to be searched:

Like so much of the news these days, the situation with the CBP is worse than you might think.

CBP’s website homepage ( has revolving stories that might interest a visitor. “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry in the United States” certainly grabbed my attention. Clicking on it takes you to this surprising defense of 45’s Executive Order, aka “the Muslim ban” (emphasis added):

In accordance with the judge’s ruling, DHS has suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections of the Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States….”

At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the President’s Executive Order, which is lawful and appropriate.  The Order is intended to protect the homeland and the American people, and the President has no higher duty and responsibility than to do so.

A Q&A section takes us to these weasel words:

How many people are currently detained at Ports of Entry as a result of the Executive Order?

CBP is not currently holding in its custody any individual solely based on the Executive Order. However, at any given time there may be a number of people going through inspection who fall within the scope of the Executive Order. All individuals who arrive in the United States are subject to inspection.

What exactly does that mean?

The CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is run by an Acting Commissioner, Kevin K. McAleenan, appointed January 20, 2017. The CPB comprises 60,000 employees and is the federal government’s largest law enforcement agency and its second-largest revenue collecting source.

In March 2016 the National Border Patrol Council, a labor union representing 16,500 of the Border Patrol’s 21,000 agents, endorsed a Presidential candidate for the very first time. Guess who? The union characterized Donald Trump as “bold and outspoken as other world leaders who put their country’s interests ahead of all else.” The endorsement is filled with still more inflammatory language (emphases mine):

We represent 16,500 agents who selflessly serve this country in an environment where our own political leaders try to keep us from doing our jobs… The NBPC has had a longstanding practice of not endorsing presidential candidates in the primaries. We will not, however, shy away from voicing our opinions as it pertains to border security and the men and women of the United States Border Patrol… We think it is that important: if we do not secure our borders, American communities will continue to suffer at the hands of gangs, cartels and violent criminals preying on the innocent. The lives and security of the American people are at stake, and the National Border Patrol Council will not sit on the sidelines.

They take deliberate aim at Obama:

As an organization we expect our elected officials to aggressively pursue the interests of the country. America has already tried a young, articulate freshman senator who never created a job as an attorney and under whose watch criminal cartels have been given the freest border reign ever known.

The whole thing is worth a jaw-dropping read (emphases all mine). There’s even a Putin reference:

Unlike his opponents, Donald Trump is not a career politician, he is an outsider who has created thousands of jobs, pledged to bring about aggressive pro-American change, and who is completely independent of special interests. We don’t need a person who has the perfect Washington-approved tone, and certainly NOT another establishment politician in the W.H. Indeed, the fact that people are more upset about Mr. Trump’s tone than about the destruction wrought by open borders tells us everything we need to know about the corruption in Washington.

We need a person in the White House who doesn’t fear the media, who doesn’t embrace political correctness, who doesn’t need the money, who is familiar with success, who won’t bow to foreign dictators, who is pro-military and values law enforcement, and who is angry for America and NOT subservient to the interests of other nations. Donald Trump is such a man.

Mr. Trump is as bold and outspoken as other world leaders who put their country’s interests ahead of all else. Americans deserve to benefit for once instead of always paying and apologizing. Our current political establishment has bled this country dry, sees their power evaporating, and isn’t listening to voters who do all the heavy lifting. Trump is opposed by the established powers specifically because they know he is the only candidate who actually threatens the established powers that have betrayed this country.

You can judge a man by his opponents: all the people responsible for the problems plaguing America today are opposing Mr. Trump. It is those without political power – the workers, the law enforcement officers, the everyday families and community members – who are supporting Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump will take on special interests and embrace the ideas of rank-and-file Border Patrol agents rather than listening to the management yes-men who say whatever they are programmed to say. This is a refreshing change that we have not seen before – and may never see again.

Mr. Trump is correct when he says immigration wouldn’t be at the forefront of this presidential campaign if months ago he hadn’t made some bold and necessary statements. And when the withering media storm ensued he did not back down one iota. That tells you the measure of a man. When the so-called experts said he was too brash and outspoken, and that he would fade away, they were proven wrong. We are confident they will be proven wrong again in November when he becomes President of the United States.

There is no greater physical or economic threat to Americans today than our open border. And there is no greater political threat than the control of Washington by special interests. In view of these threats, the National Border Patrol Council endorses Donald J. Trump for President – and asks the American people to support Mr. Trump in his mission to finally secure the border of the United States of America, before it is too late.


The ACLU called bullshit. Among other data points, it notes that under Obama the Border Patrol budget increased 75%. Much of this was spent on adding the less-than-qualified to the ranks. Misconduct, scandal, and abuses followed.

A CBP agent has almost unlimited authority to deny entry to a noncitizen visa holder. There is a list of criteria to deny entry, but on that list is that the CPB agent just thinks you shouldn’t be allowed to come here. In the past, management and human decency kept CPB agents somewhat in check. But it seems that the dogs are loose now.

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