The customs service had been an agency of the federal government until 2003. In this year on March first, it was changed and incorporated with the Department of Homeland Security as the Bureau of Customs and Border protection. Initially the department collected tariffs from imports and other related duties. The department is basically charged with three duties including collecting revenue levied on tariffs, ensuring that goods and people are processed at entry points and protecting the economy from illegal goods and smuggling. With the increased funding and critical factors such as the 9/11 bombing, the duties of this department have increased.
Functions of CBP Agents
The job description for an agent of the customs border protection is mainly regulated by the functions of the department. The duties of these agents include detecting and preventing terrorists from entering the country. Randol (2009), states that the agents regulate and facilitate international trade, prevents illegal immigration and enforce drug and trade laws. These agents must demonstrate a sound judgment when using arms and making arrests. During law enforcement, it is the duty of these agents to handle people courteously and in a tactful manner. They analyze information and make decisions with regards to court decisions and law enforcement.
The agents must develop and maintain confidential contacts with a number of informants along various borders. The agents use various law enforcement databases such as NCIC to analyze information and track criminals. After collecting and recording evidence, the agents must prepare or write the relevant reports in connection with the information. The agents have a responsibility to conduct interrogations, develop cases and apprehend criminals. After preparing the cases, they must appear in court as professional witnesses. These agents must give information promptly to enable various apprehensions to be made. It is the duty of a CBP agent to maintain and respond to alarms, other signals as well as low light televisions and infrared at night.
In addition to the above mentioned duties, a customs border protection agent must work hand in hand with other law enforcement officers within the CBP and from other agencies. He or she must perform checks on cargo, travelers and vehicles. They also inspect ships, cruise passengers, containers and all seaborne cargo. It is the duty of a CBP agent to stand guard and watch the border, use and maintain surveillance equipment, gather intelligence and track smugglers as well as illegal immigrants. The agents also protect the U.S economy by preventing the entry of contrabands and illegal goods into the country. According to Haddal (2010), they reduce crime in border communities thereby improving the quality of life.
For one to be admitted in the customs border protection department, he or she must be a citizen of the United States. The individual must be 37 years or younger in terms of age. The individual must be ready to take a thorough background test to ascertain basic information. He or she must undertake and pass various written examinations. After the examination, the individual must undertake an oral interview. Ability to work alone is another key requirement before one can join the department. Since the work entails rotational shifts, a recruit into the service is required to work long irregular hours as well as overtime.
It is a requirement to carry a firearm therefore; one must exercise sound judgment when using it. Before joining the department, the candidate must possess a valid state driver’s license since part of the work entails long patrols. A physical examination is a requirement to determine ones fitness. The individual should possess good interpersonal skills, judgment as well as a logical reasoning ability. It is a requirement that one should undergo and pass various medical examinations. These include a normal peripheral vision, color vision, distant vision acuity, and ability to hear in both ears as well as being free from various impairments that will render him or her unsuitable for recruitment. The candidates must be willing to undergo periodic random drug tests.
The working conditions for an agent of the CBP are highly challenging because these agents can be given temporary short term notices or can be relocated permanently to other areas within the department. The work week has forty working hours with unadministered over times in the course of the week. Due to the frequent patrols, the agents must be able to drive or operate high speed engines. This gives them an edge over the criminals.
Benefits of being a CBP agent
Due to the rigorous nature of their work, the agents are entitled to a number of benefits. For instance, as law enforcement agents, they are entitled to special retirement benefits. Here, they may retire within 20 years of service. The custom has a special system of promotion hence all agents have a chance of career progression. The agents also enjoy a relatively high salary to compensate for their services. Some agents enjoy locality pay which is an addition to their personal earnings. This ranges from 8.64 to 19.04 percent of the basic salary. The law enforcement availability pay adds about 25 percent to their salary (Ferguson, >>>>) The job is also fulfilling as one has the opportunity to adventure into new territories. The agents have an extensive medical cover as some of the benefits that are not enjoyed by other professionals.
Challenges facing the CBP agents
Working as a CBP agent is both fulfilling and challenging. The agents are frequently faced with a number of challenges including gaps in operations between sectors and stations, insufficient resources, the distance between the resources and borders among others. Environmentally challenging areas, that is, areas prone to calamities and frequent attacks is another major challenge. Insufficient number of agents renders the job difficult to perform as there is an increased workload per agent. The agents have to patrol long distances and this is often tiresome as there are fewer breaks. Frequent harsh weather conditions must be endured by agents in the line of duty and this often predisposes them to disease. The agents are also exposed to attacks from drug traffickers and illegal immigrants therefore; their life is often at risk. These agents often risk injuries resulting from criminals who violate rules and regulations. The agents often experience a cultural challenge as they can be relocated from time to time. The rapid changes in technology mean that the agents must undergo new trainings and re-trainings.
Custom Service Agent Questionnaire
- What is your main area of specialization?
- Border patrol Immigration and Naturalization agent
- If A above, what distance do you cover?
- 100 to 250 miles B. 250 to 400 miles Above 400 miles
- If above 400 miles, what is your major means of transport?
- Personal vehicle B. Service vehicle Air transport
- Do you work alone?
- Yes B. No
- If No how many partners do you have?
- 1 2 C. 3
- What is your major role?
Tracking illegal immigrants, apprehending them and handing them in for deportation
- What challenges do you frequently face?
Most of the culprits are armed therefore it hard arresting them.
- How do you deal with the challenges?
I work closely with the special arms force to help disarm the culprits
- Would you like to quit your job
- Yes B. No
- If Yes why?
- What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
The fact that I traverse a greater part of the country during my duty is very fulfilling.
- Would you like some changes in the way work is done and how?
Yes. The facilities especially the transport mode should be improved.