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

  • News Release

    Human Smuggling Via Central America Generates Hundreds of Millions of Dollars, but Transnational Criminal Groups May ...

    The smuggling of unlawful migrants from the Northern Triangle region of Central America—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—to the United States generated between $200 million and $2.3 billion for human smugglers in 2017. The wide range reflects uncertainty about the number of migrants that travel northward, their use of smugglers and the fees they pay.

    Apr 22, 2019

  • Central America on a globe, photo by Bobtokyoharris/Getty Images

    Research Brief

    Human Smuggling Operations from Central America to the United States

    Smuggling unlawful migrants from Central America to the United States generated between $200 million and $2.3 billion for human smugglers in 2017. The wide range reflects uncertainty about the number of migrants, their use of smugglers, and the fees they pay. Transnational criminal organizations are only one type of actor involved.

    Apr 22, 2019

  • Report

    Human Smuggling and Associated Revenues: What Do or Can We Know About Routes from Central America to the United States?

    The authors examine the structure, operations, and financing of actors that engage in human smuggling along routes from Central America to the United States and develop a preliminary estimate of revenues associated with human smuggling.

    Apr 22, 2019

  • A stretch of Hadrian's Wall at Walton's Crags in Northumberland, England, photo by Gannet77/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Hadrian's Wall Was a Policy Statement; So Is Donald Trump's

    It's not clear if Hadrian's Wall was necessary to prevent Scottish fighters from invading the Roman Empire. Neither is it clear how effective Trump's wall would be at repelling undocumented immigration and smugglers. Hadrian's Wall may have been of symbolic value to those on both sides of it. Trump's could be, too.

    Mar 6, 2019

  • Donald Trump holds up a photo of a border wall design in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., January 11, 2019, photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

    Commentary

    Terrorists on the Border and Government Secrecy

    Detailed information on how many would-be terrorists may have sought to cross the southern border is being withheld on the grounds that it is sensitive. The refusal of officials to offer a fuller explanation of the numbers illustrates how the continued expansion of secrecy in government is damaging the ability of the public to assess the risk and evaluate the response.

    Feb 13, 2019

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials detain migrants from Central America after they crossed from Mexico, at the International Friendship Park in San Diego county, CA, January 16, 2019, photo by Mohammed Salem/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Wall Is Not the Only Answer

    The president and Congress have just days to negotiate an agreement over border security, or the government may shut down once again. Until a bipartisan effort is made to reform U.S. immigration laws, policy options to address the incentives that cause people to risk their lives to come to the border to claim asylum will continue to be limited.

    Feb 8, 2019

  • Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen as President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address in Washington, February 5, 2019

    Blog

    State of the Union: Insights from RAND

    To shed light on a wide range of topics that figured in President Trump's second State of the Union address, we've rounded up insights from some of RAND's objective and nonpartisan research, analysis, and expertise.

    Feb 6, 2019

  • A U.S. Border Patrol agent at the San Ysidro port of entry from Mexico in San Diego, California, November 9, 2018

    Commentary

    Shutdown Could Provide Opening for Adversaries to Corrupt Those Protecting the U.S. Homeland

    Every day that the government shutdown continues prolongs the financial hardship for those on the front lines protecting the United States and gives cartels and transnational criminal organizations an opening to try to corrupt the DHS ranks. As negotiations continue to stall, the Trump administration and Congress should consider taking steps to guard against this vulnerability.

    Jan 22, 2019

  • Daniel holds 1-year-old Daniela, both from El Salvador, as a group of migrants from Central America en route to the United States crossed through the Suchiate River into Mexico, November 2, 2018

    Commentary

    America's Overwhelmed Immigration System

    The Trump administration's options to deal with the surge of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border appear to be limited. What policies could help address the problem?

    Dec 5, 2018

  • U.S. Marines install concertina wire along the top of the primary border wall at the port of entry next to Tijuana, Meico, in San Ysidro, San Diego, U.S., November 9, 2018

    Commentary

    The U.S. Military's Border Enforcement Role

    The Trump administration announced a deployment of at least 5,200 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. Is a military response of this size needed to address the situation on the southern border?

    Nov 19, 2018

  • Passport page with the immigration control of Australia stamp

    Report

    Looking to the Future of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP): Assessment of the Consolidation of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the DIBP (2016–2017)

    This report summarizes the results of a follow-on evaluation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and informs the upcoming transition to an Australian Department of Home Affairs.

    Jun 18, 2018

  • Migrants from Central America enter the United States Border and Customs facility, where they are expected to apply for asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico, May 4, 2018

    Commentary

    New Border Policy Could Have Unintended Consequences

    The Trump administration has announced significant policy changes to deter migrants from coming to America. These changes will likely have a significant impact on border operations and the federal court system. But it's less clear whether they will have the intended impact of reducing illegal immigration.

    May 21, 2018

  • Report

    Managing International Borders: Balancing Security with the Licit Flow of People and Goods

    This Perspective builds on global best practices and lessons learned from other established border management solutions and proposes opportunities to strengthen security while improving the flow of travelers and goods.

    May 9, 2018

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: May-June 2018

    This issue features research on preventing child abuse and neglect and improving outcomes for children in the U.S. child-welfare system; a look back on RAND's 70 years of innovation; and an exploration of the human side of artificial intelligence.

    Apr 30, 2018

  • People speak through the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Border Field State Park in San Diego, California, November 18, 2017

    Commentary

    Prioritizing Security at the U.S. Border with Mexico

    As debate on border security continues, policymakers would be wise to look beyond the heated rhetoric to clearly identify priorities and make informed decisions about how best to deploy finite resources to get the strongest security for the investment.

    Jan 29, 2018

  • A French gendarme stands guard near a line of lorries as migrants wait in bushes in the hopes of boarding a truck to make their way across the Channel to Britain, near Calais, France, Janaury 21, 2016

    Commentary

    Is Macron Set to 'Take Back Control' of UK-France Border After Brexit?

    As French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in London for the 35th UK-France Summit, there is growing French discomfort with arrangements at the UK-France border. The UK's decision to leave the European Union has added new urgency to this already fraught debate.

    Jan 17, 2018

  • The border fence between United States and Mexico

    Commentary

    The Big Border Security Question

    What does a secure U.S.-Mexico border look like? And what kind of security measures are needed? Despite investing billions of dollars since 9/11, it's still a struggle to measure how effective U.S. border security operations are.

    Dec 9, 2017

  • Prototypes for a U.S. border wall are shown near completion behind the current border fence near Tijuana, Mexico, October 23, 2017

    Commentary

    Broken Border or Broken Policy?

    What does a secure land border look like? The U.S. government's inability to provide an answer has trapped America in a vicious cycle. Every decade, the perception that the U.S.-Mexico border isn't secure enough leads to big investments—with mixed results.

    Nov 17, 2017

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