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Honor First: U.S. Border Patrol’s 93 Years of Service

Publication Date: 
Friday, May 26, 2017

May 28 marks the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the United States Border Patrol. Congress created the Border Patrol in 1924 as part of the Department of Labor’s Immigration Bureau.

USBP agents on horseback
Members of the Border Patrol Horse
Patrol guard our southwest border.
Photo: Donna Burton

Since its inception, the Border Patrol had relied on horses to patrol the borders of the United States. During those early years, the job of “Immigration Patrol Inspector” required applicants to provide their own horses. Today, 350 agents are assigned to Horse Patrol Units.

Since the 1940s and 1950s, canine units have been used periodically to support Border Patrol operations. In 1987, the U.S. Border Patrol Canine Program was officially established and consisted of four Belgian Malinois and their handlers. Thirty years later, the Border Patrol has 845 highly trained canine teams encompassing multiple breeds and disciplines.

The Border Patrol has also used technology to refine its enforcement methods. In 1924, binoculars were considered advanced border security technology. Today, using their trademark craft, known as “signcutting,” agents can detect and track illegal cross-border activity. The Border Patrol also employs ground sensors, integrated fixed towers equipped with radar, and day/night cameras.

One constant remains for Border Patrol agents, as it has through the decades: working conditions are often dangerous and shifts always produce the unexpected. The Border Patrol is responsible for patrolling the 6,000 miles of land border with Canada and Mexico as well as 2,000 miles of coastal waters surrounding the Florida peninsula and Puerto Rico. As a result, Border Patrol agents endure all types of terrain and climate extremes.

Fifty years ago, the application packet for agents stated, “The prerequisites for the position are understandably high. The Border Patrol officer is often the yardstick by which the American people are judged.”

The U.S. Border Patrol holds itself to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism. The Border Patrol’s trademarked motto – “Honor First” – continues to guide our dedicated men and women in green who are committed to law enforcement and national security. I could not be more proud of U.S. Border Patrol and their legacy of selfless service.

Last modified: 
April 22, 2019