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History Leads to the Present

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is among the federal government’s younger entities, but many of its roles and responsibilities can be traced back before all the original states had ratified the U.S. constitution. The CBP History Program is reviewing the major responsibilities of CBP to show their origins and how their development continues to impact how CBP works and serves the nation.

Remembering Two 9/11s

September 11 or 9/11 is a watershed date in the history of terrorist acts against the U.S., and this date is significant for two series of events that occurred 31 years apart. Both series broadened the federal government’s role in preventing acts of terrorism from interdiction to prevention. They also set precedents for the ongoing work of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Establishing a Symbol of Authority in Exercising the Enforcement of Federal Law

The ensign is the official flag of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Its origin dates to 1799.  It was originally employed to identify U.S. revenue cutters and customs vessels and their power to enforce federal laws and regulations. The U.S. Congress mandated its use so that these ships would be distinguished from other vessels.

Developing a System for Administering Customs

In July 1789, the U.S. Congress passed a series of acts that established the legal structure for assessing and collecting customs duties. While two of the acts established what was subject to duties and the structure of the duties, the act of July 31, 1789, created the staff positions to collect duties and administer customs.

Establishing Standard Border Crossing Documents

In June 2009, rules went into effect that more precisely defined the types of documents that may be presented at ports of entry to demonstrate that an individual may enter the U.S. The evolution of documents used by travelers for border-crossing began in the 19th century.

Preventing Illegal Border Crossings

On May 26, 1924, Congress made sweeping changes to immigration policy for the U.S. The Congress enacted legislation that imposed numeric limits on immigration and created a category of “entry without inspection,” labeling those who cross U.S. borders without being processed at official ports of entry.

Last modified: 
September 11, 2014