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Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske's Remarks at Border Security Expo, Phoenix

Release Date: 
March 18, 2014

Thank you for the kind introduction. It is wonderful to be with so many people that I have known and worked with over many years. I’m delighted to speak with you today on my first trip outside of Washington since my long tenure with CBP began, 10 days ago.

Given this lengthy CBP experience, I will rely on my more knowledgeable colleagues in DHS and CBP to provide you with our updates. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher and Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition‘s Assistant Commissioner Mark Borkowski will both speak about their divisions tomorrow.

I’m not a newcomer to law enforcement or border issues. With 40 years in law enforcement and five years as the President’s drug policy advisor and responsible for the congressionally mandated Southwest Border Counternarcotic Strategy, I would like to outline CBP’s responsibilities and my priorities for the agency.

Responsibilities and Priorities

Over the past five years, CBP has implemented the most serious and sustained action in our nation’s history to secure our borders. Today, our borders are better staffed and protected, and illegal crossings have dropped to near 40 year lows.

I understand that the goals of national security and national prosperity are, and should, be mutually reinforcing — protecting the borders and enhancing economic security.

CBP is responsible for preventing terrorists and criminals — and their weapons and contraband — from entering the United States and for preventing money and guns from leaving. We also are responsible for enforcing more than 500 laws for 47 federal agencies, processing more than $2.3 trillion in international trade and collecting more than $40 billion annually in revenue.

CBP is also responsible for enforcement and regulatory activities that can and do have a major impact on the worldwide economy and on individuals’ lives.

Law enforcement and economic prosperity are interconnected. Prosperity depends on a consistent, stable and predictable environment for commerce and enforcement plays a critical role in creating and protecting those safe and secure conditions.

Future Agenda

Over the coming months, some of the items I will focus on are CBP’s need to continue transforming its business processes, eliminating paperwork, expanding enrollment in trusted traveler programs and deploying technology to minimize wait times at ports of entry, as well as better securing our borders. 

Time is money, not only for cargo, but also for international travelers who wish to visit the United States. These visitors create tremendous economic growth and support jobs, therefore we need to do everything possible to welcome them expeditiously. Studies project that global trade will expand by 8 percent annually through the year 2030 and infrastructure trade will grow at a rate of 9 percent, accounting for more than 50 percent of all goods traded globally.

This type of commercial activity means economic growth and jobs for Americans. We must ensure that our ports maintain the level of security that our public demands, yet continue to help the United States capitalize on these economic opportunities.

Security Between Ports of Entry

Regarding security between our ports of entry, the Border Patrol will continue the use of information, integration and rapid response to meet all threats.

Critical to this enterprise are CBP’s cooperation and operational planning with international, federal, state, local and tribal partners. As ONDCP Director, promoting such cooperation was a characteristic of my tenure that I will further emphasize as CBP Commissioner.

I will seek ways to maximize investments in CBP’s information technology, technical and intelligence resources, as technology also plays a crucial role in these arenas.

These resources include investment in CBP’s Air and Marine operations, along the borders and in the transit zones, to bolster targeted anti-terrorism and law enforcement missions.

Use of Force

The use of force by Border Patrol agents is an important issue to me and many others. I have closely reviewed this issue since my nomination in August, I have completed a number of briefings on this.

I am very proud of the actions and direction that Chief Fisher has taken and believe he has set the right tone and right direction for the agency one that recognizes the importance of training, tactics and equipment.

Chief Fisher’s efforts balance the importance of protecting the men and women of the Border Patrol with our responsibility to be transparent and accountable when force is used.

As you know, I devoted four decades to the profession I love—law enforcement. However, I am not blinded by that love. I have worked diligently throughout my career to be a good listener and partner who can be trusted to solve these difficult and complex issues.

I will continue to work hard during my tenure as CBP Commissioner.

Speaker Introduction

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the next speaker, Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Alejandro Mayorkas was sworn in as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security on December 23, 2013. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas previously served as the Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013.

Prior to his appointment at USCIS, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas was a partner in the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP. In 2008, the National Law Journal recognized Deputy Secretary Mayorkas as one of the “50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”

In 1998, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to be the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, becoming the youngest U.S. Attorney to serve the nation at that time. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and received his law degree from Loyola Law School.

Please join me in welcoming Deputy Secretary Mayorkas.


Last modified: 
February 3, 2021