Border and Port Security

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Border and port security agencies are charged with keeping their nations safe from terrorists and illegal, smuggled goods. RAND researchers examine border and port security challenges and immigration issues, and also advises U.S. Customs and Border Security on ways to best allocate its limited resources.

Explore Border and Port Security

  • Artist Ana Teresa Fernandez and members of cultural organization Border/Arte paint the fence between Mexico and the U.S. to give it the illusion of transparency in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, April 9, 2016

    Commentary

    Walls Won't Keep Us Safe

    Experience along the U.S. southern border demonstrates that even with fortifications, a wall provides only modest capacity to stop illegal crossings. More emphasis should be placed on expanding border security beyond the physical dimension.

    Apr 15, 2016

  • Transportation soldiers and civilian harbormasters move cargo containers onto awaiting vessels in a training exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis

    Commentary

    Ten Years After the Safe Port Act, Are America's Ports Secure?

    The economic importance and visibility of America's ports make them attractive terrorism targets. Port security has improved, but many of the threats that motivated the Safe Ports Act in 2006 remain, and new dangers have emerged, including cyber threats.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • A K-9 police unit keeps watch as passengers make their way through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

    Commentary

    Improving Domestic Security to Combat Today's Terrorist Threats

    Today, the U.S. confronts a multilayered terrorist threat and the recent spate of attacks in Europe underscores the necessity for ensuring that intelligence keeps up with it. Intelligence services must continue to prevent terrorist assaults dispatched from abroad, head off new shoe and underwear bombers, intercept individuals returning from jihadist fronts with terrorist intentions, while at the same time uncovering and thwarting homegrown plots.

    Jan 30, 2015

  • U.S. Capitol building with summer flowers

    Blog

    Summer Reading for Congress

    No matter how policymakers spend their break—meeting with home-state constituents, traveling abroad with congressional delegations, or spending time with family—this summer reading list contains policy ideas that can help them hit the ground running when they return.

    Jul 31, 2014

  • Officer Eric Darnsteadt from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service inspects shipping containers arriving at Port Newark with a truck-mounted X-ray machine

    Commentary

    Securing America's Ports by Better Measuring Capabilities

    Funding for improving U.S. port security has declined from $389 million in 2008 to $100 million in 2014. This makes it more important than ever to ensure the highest possible return on investment from grant funding.

    Jun 13, 2014

  • Customs and Border Protection officer Ballard inspects a motorist's passport at the San Ysidro border crossing between Mexico and the U.S. in San Ysidro, California

    Blog

    Saving Money by Using Advanced DoD Sensors on the U.S. Border

    There is no legal reason why a DoD sensor should be excluded from use in an interagency technology demonstration or in an actual counterdrug operation as long as a valid request for support is made by an appropriate law enforcement official and no personally identifiable or private information on U.S. citizens is collected.

    Jun 6, 2014

  • airport security check with passenger walking through metal detector

    Commentary

    The Real Homeland Security Issues for 2014

    Americans should be able to discuss the terrorist threat and how best to meet it, how much of the country’s precious resources should be devoted to homeland security, and the impact intelligence efforts can have on personal privacy and freedom.

    Feb 5, 2014

  • Homeland Security Investigations agents capture Mexican national wanted for kidnapping

    Commentary

    Border Security Is Key to Immigration Reform

    Two important aspects of border security bear continued attention: strategy must be developed as one part of a holistic system of immigration management and any progress on improving this system is reliant on having concrete and sensible objectives and measures of success.

    Jul 15, 2013

  • Mexico border

    Commentary

    If U.S.-Mexico Get Security Right, Other Good Policy Will Follow

    Obama and Peña Nieto emphasized economic cooperation at their summit not because security issues have gone away, but because the new rules of the game in this nascent relationship between the two leaders are evolving, writes Agnes Gereben Schaefer.

    May 29, 2013

  • Migrant workers load cucumbers into a truck in Blackwater, Virginia

    Commentary

    Is Enforcement Key to Fixing America's Immigration System?

    The current debate regarding comprehensive immigration reform offers an opportunity to redesign the worksite immigration enforcement system to achieve more efficient enforcement with better intelligence on where undocumented workers are employed, say Andrew Morral and Peter Brownell.

    Feb 15, 2013

  • President Obama's State of the Union Address 2013

    Blog

    The State of the Union 2013

    The 2013 SOTU address will be remembered for its impassioned call for greater gun control just two months after Sandy Hook. But President Obama's second-term agenda can be characterized by its sheer breadth, reflecting the broad range of policy challenges facing the U.S. today.

    Feb 13, 2013

  • The towns of Nogales, Ariz., left, and Nogales, Mexico, stand separated by a high concrete and steel fence

    Commentary

    Legalization and Border Security: Are We There Yet?

    The White House and a bipartisan group of senators recently unveiled proposals for comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal raises a number of questions, says Peter Brownell: How would success in securing the border actually be determined? Would it mean absolutely zero unauthorized immigration across U.S. borders?

    Feb 7, 2013

  • At a rally, two women hold signs calling for immigration reform.

    Blog

    Potential Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants Takes Shape

    A group of U.S. Senators this week unveiled a proposal to reform the nation's immigration laws, outlining a path to citizenship for most of the nation's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and endorsing an increase of certain types of foreign-born workers.

    Jan 31, 2013

  • Commentary

    Revisiting 100% Inspection

    It is good that the congressmen have asked the Obama administration to revisit supply chain security. However, precipitous changes to how the global supply chain operates do not seem warranted, may not in fact improve security, and could have costly unintended consequences, writes Henry Willis.

    Jul 6, 2012

  • Commentary

    Assessing Mexico's Narco-Violence

    Drug-related violence in Mexico has more than doubled over the past 18 months, with a sharp increase in crimes that can only be understood as atrocities. The executions, assassinations, and decapitations may all seem wanton and senseless. But this violence actually has a purpose, write Benjamin Bahney and Agnes Gereben Schaefer.

    May 14, 2009

  • Report

    U.S.-Mexico Strategic Partnership Needed to Help Mexico Improve Its Security Institutions

    The United States should forge a strategic partnership with Mexico that emphasizes reform and long-term institution building as a way to battle the ongoing drug war and other security challenges that face Mexico.

    Apr 20, 2009

  • Commentary

    Could Mexico Fail?

    The lawlessness along the mexican border has gone way beyond a local crime wave: there has been a dramatic increase in armed robberies, not by lone gunmen but by heavily armed gangs. Kidnappings and homicides are way up—and not just murders but beheadings.... It is starting to look like a terrorist campaign, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Feb 13, 2009

  • Report

    While Piracy and Terrorism at Sea Grow, Scant Evidence That They're Merging

    Acts of piracy and terrorism at sea are on the rise, but there is little evidence to support concerns from some governments and international organizations that pirates and terrorists are beginning to collude with one another.

    Apr 28, 2008

  • Commentary

    Speed Low-Risk Travelers Through Increased Security

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Speed Low-Risk Travelers Through Increased Security, in Los Angeles Business Journal.

    Sep 4, 2006

  • Commentary

    Securing America's Ports

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Securing America's Ports, in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    Mar 26, 2006