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.

  • Commentary

    The Crisis at the Border: A Primer for Confused Americans

    A holistic update to U.S. immigration laws—based on American immigration needs and the factors that are driving people to make the dangerous trek to cross the border—would be politically challenging. But it would help reduce the numbers of daily migrants and the challenges that migration poses to receiving localities.

    Feb 28, 2024

  • Commentary

    IUU Fishing: A Maritime Security Threat Requiring Unique Solutions

    Fish depreciate, have tighter profit margins than drugs, and have a consumer base that can impact demand. Using the weak points in illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing business models to decrease profitability won't solve IUU fishing worldwide, but it can decrease IUU fishing.

    Feb 8, 2024

Explore Border and Port Security

  • Report

    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

  • 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

  • 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 in San Diego County, California, 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

  • After crossing from Mexico by jumping a border fence, migrants run next to a prototype of the border wall in Otay County, California, December 21, 2018

    Commentary

    What Border Walls Can and Cannot Accomplish

    States have been building walls since ancient times. Some were arguably quite successful, others less so. At the core of prudent policy lies a basic question: What can walls realistically accomplish?

    Jan 8, 2019

  • 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

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    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

    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

  • Passengers walks past sign prior to immigration control

    Commentary

    European Security Cooperation Should Remain Comprehensive—Especially After Brexit

    During Brexit negotiations, it could be tempting for the UK and EU to use certain security structures as 'bargaining chips'. However, it is in no one's interests for both sides to adopt a 'zero-sum' approach to security discussions.

    Mar 28, 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

  • Migrants at the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority in Tripoli, Libya, September 10, 2017

    Commentary

    Addressing Europe's Migrant Crisis Takes More Than Stopping the Boats from Libya

    Treating migration from Libya as a border security issue has reduced migration across the Mediterranean. But efforts to keep migrants in Libya are fraught with risks, exacerbate a massive human rights problem, and do not address Libya's long-term economic and political stabilization.

    Sep 25, 2017

  • A man walks past the European Commission headquarters on which is displayed a banner celebrating 60 years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Brussels, Belgium, March 20, 2017

    Commentary

    Sixty Years Later European Integration Has Benefited EU Countries

    Sixty years after the Treaty of Rome, the EU is facing one of its most challenging periods. Closer ties and shared values across EU member states have provided social and economic benefits but any moves towards closer integration in Europe will fail to materialize in the absence of political will.

    Mar 28, 2017

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