The work of Customs and Border Protection featured prominently in Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's address to Washington, D.C., journalists yesterday as she described how "our homeland security and our economic security go hand in hand."
In her speech on the state of homeland security before the National Press Club, Napolitano covered the breadth of the DHS mission, yet the national importance of the CBP mission was unmistakable. She stated that the U.S. must "continue to look both within and beyond our physical borders and develop strategies that keep America safe from threats that can originate both here at home or on the other side of the world."
"This year alone, DHS will help facilitate about $2 trillion in legitimate trade," said Napolitano, "while enforcing U.S. trade laws that protect the economy, the health and the safety of the American people."
She repeated that the country's Southwest border protection efforts are working. "Illegal immigration attempts, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions, have decreased 53 percent in the past three years," she stated, "and are less than 20 percent of what they were at their peak, while seizures of illegal drugs, currency, and weapons are all up."
Napolitano addressed tough questions posed by the journalists in the question-and-answer session following her speech. When asked about expanding security with budget constraints, she got a laugh when she acknowledged that everyone always wants more. She then grew serious. "Do we have what we need to protect the American people?" she asked, and answered that "we can do the job that we need to do" and "we have an obligation to do what we do more efficiently."
Napolitano underscored the importance of cooperating with domestic and international partners for mutual security. Information sharing among law enforcement organizations and uniting information from different databases help to uncover legitimate and illegitimate cargo and travelers. Napolitano said that CBP will be adding preclearance sites in Canada and other countries in 2012, explaining the importance of "screening as far away from our physical borders as possible."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.