May 17, 2018

Niskanen Immigration Policy Brief: Law Enforcement at the Border



Illegal immigration may be down and illegal border crossings down even more, but border security remains at the forefront of the political discussions surrounding immigration. At the center of the border-security strategy of the United States are the law enforcement personnel of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Policymakers must consider both the target level of law enforcement agents at the border as well as the feasibility of reaching that target. As the number of agents has massively expanded, so too has the difficulty of maintaining that staff. In addition, policymakers must consider what integrity measures and oversight are necessary to combat corruption and abuse at the border. This brief examines those questions. Section I looks at staffing the border. It examines the history of the growth of the Border Patrol (the CBP’s “boots on the ground”), the diminishing returns to new agents, and attempts to augment law enforcement at the border with the National Guard. Section II looks at corruption and abuse at the border, as well as attempts to combat that corruption. Section III makes recommendations about both staffing and anti-corruption policy.

Read the brief here.