Border and Port Security


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

  • Homeland Security Investigations agents capture Mexican national wanted for kidnapping


    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


    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


    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 Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2013


    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


    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.


    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

  • Container/cargo ship


    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

  • CBP Border Patrol agent scans trains passing through Montana for any illegal actives.


    Using Pattern Analysis and Systematic Randomness to Allocate U.S. Border Security Resources

    Pattern and trend analysis and systematic randomness can be used to position U.S. border security personnel and equipment effectively for interdiction, and in some circumstances the combined approach is competitive with perfect surveillance.

    Mar 27, 2012

  • A soldier keeps watch outside a house being used as a meth lab in the community of San Juan Mazatlan, Mexico


    The Challenge of Violent Drug-Trafficking Organizations

    Violent drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico produce, transship, and deliver into the U.S. tens of billions of dollars worth of narcotics annually. A Delphi exercise offers an assessment of the security situation in Mexico through the lens of existing research on urban unrest, historical insurgencies, and defense-sector reform.

    Oct 21, 2011

  • Report

    Four Approaches to Estimating the Total Flow of Illegal Border Crossings Between Ports of Entry

    Fundamental to the question of border control effectiveness is the proportion of illegal crossings that are prevented through deterrence or apprehension, but estimating these proportions requires knowing the total flow. Four new approaches warrant further attention for purposes of supporting reliable, valid, and timely measures of illicit cross-border flow.

    Mar 18, 2011

  • Journal Article

    Deterring the Smuggling of Nuclear Weapons in Container Freight Through Detection and Retaliation

    The authors quantify a game-theoretic model of terrorist decision making to understand the role of nuclear detection technologies in deterring nuclear terrorism.

    Jan 1, 2011

  • Report

    Measuring the Effectiveness of Border Security Between Ports-of-Entry

    Focusing on three missions—illegal drug control, counterterrorism, and illegal migration—this report recommends ways to measure performance of U.S. border-security efforts in terms of interdiction, deterrence, and exploiting networked intelligence.

    Jun 23, 2010

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast


    Mexican Security in Decline: Implications and Options for the United States

    On June 17, 2009, Jack Riley discussed how Mexican security issues affect the United States, implications for traditional border concerns such as illegal immigration and drug trafficking, and various policy options available to aid the Mexican government in improving security.

    Jun 17, 2009

  • News Release

    U.S. Freight System Modernization Necessary to Reduce Bottlenecks, Improve Security

    The long-term efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. freight transportation system is threatened by bottlenecks, inefficient use of some parts of the infrastructure components, vulnerability to disruptions, and crucial environmental and energy concerns.

    Jun 9, 2009

  • A stack of shipping containers of different colors


    U.S. Freight System Modernization Necessary to Reduce Bottlenecks, Improve Security

    The long-term efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. freight transportation system is threatened by bottlenecks, inefficient use of some parts of the infrastructure components, vulnerability to disruptions, and crucial environmental and energy concerns.

    Jun 5, 2009

  • 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

  • A US passport with a boarding pass inside


    Is It Time to Rethink U.S. Entry and Exit Processes?

    Meeting mandated standards for managing individual travelers' entry and exit at U.S. borders has been a longstanding difficulty for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. border protection apparatus. This paper examines related policies and procedures critical to their success.

    Feb 19, 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

  • Journal Article

    Savage Struggle on the Border: Can Mexico Fail?

    Discusses the possibilities and options for America if neighboring country Mexico should become a failed state.

    Jan 1, 2009

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