An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

  1. Home
  2. About CBP
  3. History
  4. CBP’s 20th Anniversary History: The Establishment of CBP

CBP’s 20th Anniversary History: The Establishment of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Celebrating landmark events from CBP’s first 20 years.

The CBP ensign being raised at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

On March 1, 2003, U.S. Customs and Border Protection was established as the nation’s first comprehensive border, travel and trade agency. The agency’s formation was a direct result of the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission, and was established within the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

The agency integrated four legacy agencies. The Customs Service, which was transferred from the Treasury Department, originates from the Fifth Act of the First Congress on July 31, 1789. Immigration inspection, from the Immigration and Nationalization Service, traces its roles to the establishment of the Office of the Superintendent of Immigration on March 3, 1891. INS also housed our enforcement functions, including Border Patrol, which was first authorized by Congress on May 28, 1924. The plant protection and quarantine inspection programs, from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the Department of Agriculture, traces its agriculture inspection roles to the passage of the Plant Quarantine Act on Aug. 20, 1912.

President George W. Bush and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge listen to CBP Commissioner Robert Bonner as he describes the mission of the National Targeting Center.

The agency’s mission is to protect the American people, safeguard our borders, and enhance the nation’s economic prosperity. With more than 60,000 employees, CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations and is charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. while facilitating lawful international travel and trade.

As the nation’s first unified border entity, the agency takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.


CBP’s Enduring Priorities

Counter Terrorism – Anticipate, detect and disrupt the threat of terrorists, their weapons and actions to protect the people and economy of the United States.

Combat Transnational Crime – Detect, deter and disrupt transnational organized crime that threatens U.S. national and economic security interests at and beyond the border.

Secure the Border – Protect the Homeland through the air, land and maritime environments against illegal entry, illicit activity or other threats to uphold national sovereignty and promote national and economic security.

Facilitate Lawful Trade and Protect Revenue – Enable fair, competitive and compliant trade and enforce U.S. laws to ensure safety, prosperity and economic security for the American people.

Facilitate Lawful Travel – Enhance, enable and transform the travel experience by anticipating, detecting and intercepting threats prior to and at ports of entry.

CBP’s History

CBP’s traces its historic beginnings to 1789. But it was the tragic events of 9/11 that forever changed the nation and later forged CBP into the evolving agency it is today. Since the agency’s establishment 20 years ago, CBP has continued to grow stronger, more dynamic and capable of taking on our nation’s most important challenges.

The three uniforms, from left to right, represent Border Patrol, Air and Marine Operations and Field Operations.


Container Security Initiative Launched to Protect Global Trade, Enhance Border Security

CBP launched the Container Security Initiative (CSI), one of the most critical parts of the agency’s layered cargo security strategy, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Read the Container Security Initiative Story

Air and Marine Operations’ Unmanned Aircraft System

In 2005, CBP began using the MQ-9 Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) – marking a leap forward in the use of unmanned systems for CBP.

Read the Unmanned Aircraft System Story

Celebrating U.S. Customs 234th Anniversary

July 31, 2023, marks the 234th anniversary of the birth of the U.S. Customs Service and the important role it played in the history of the United States.

Read the 234th Anniversary Story

The Unveiling of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Valor Memorial

In March 2004, CBP’s Valor Memorial was unveiled at its headquarters in Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building. The Memorial is a tangible sign of CBP’s continued commitment to honor the agents, officers and employees who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Read the Valor Memorial Story

Border Patrol Academy Unified in Artesia

When class session 583 reported to the Border Patrol Basic Academy in Artesia, New Mexico on October 20, 2004, it marked the beginning of a new era in U.S. Border Patrol training history.

Read the Border Patrol Academy Story

Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act Brings Sweeping Change

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA) was the first law since the Department of Homeland Security's inception in 2003 to grant U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) comprehensive authority to ensure a fair and competitive trade environment.

Read the TFTEA Story


Last Modified: Mar 22, 2024