International Crime Control Strategy - June 1998

IV. Protecting U.S. Borders

We owe the American people an air, land and sea defense of their frontiers, not only against drugs, but terrorism, international crime and other threats.

Barry R. McCaffrey
Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy
May 12, 1997

Protecting U.S. borders plays a central role in any effective international crime-fighting strategy. This Strategy incorporates and builds upon specific existing cross-border initiatives, such as the National Drug Control Strategy and other presidential directives aimed at stemming the flow of aliens and contraband across U.S. borders.

A. Goal: Protect U.S. Borders by Attacking Smuggling and Smuggling-Related Crimes

The Strategy calls for aggressive efforts to protect U.S. borders by attacking and decreasing smuggling and smuggling-related crimes. Border crossings serve as choke-points where criminals are vulnerable to detection and capture. Effective enforcement activity along the borders not only reduces smuggling-related crimes, but also denies international criminals resources they need for other illicit activities. Information developed through effective border enforcement also provides law enforcement agencies along our borders the opportunity to create a bridge between detection of illegal border activities and related investigations of criminal groups operating within the United States.

B. Objectives

Enhance our land border inspection, detection and motoring capabilities through a greater resource commitment, further coordination of federal agency efforts, and increased cooperation with the private sector;

Improve the effectiveness of maritime and air smuggling interdiction efforts in the transit zone;

Seek new, stiffer criminal penalties for smuggling activities; and

Target enforcement and prosecutorial resources more effectively against smuggling crimes and organizations.

C. Programs and Initiatives

1. Enhancing Our Land Border Inspection, Detection and Monitoring Capabilities

Scope of the Border Challenge

Safeguarding our nation's borders is one of the federal government's most basic responsibilities. It is also one of our most daunting challenges, given the historically open nature of our borders with our northern and southern neighbors. Not only does the sheer size of the frontier make this a major undertaking, but improvements in transportation and trade relations have led us to increase border protection efforts.

The federal government maintains over 300 ports of entry, including airports, where customs and immigration officials inspect inbound and outbound individuals and cargo. The United States-Canada border is the most open free trade border in the world, and our bilateral trade relationship is the largest in the world. The length of the United States-Canada and United States-Mexico borders makes them inviting targets for illegal border crossing. The nation's land and sea borders altogether stretch a total of 9,600 miles. In 1996, more than 400 million people entered the United States, up from 225 million in 1980. Five million commercial trucks and four million ocean containers also arrived in the United States. Increased pressure on our borders has created new dangers that smugglers, terrorists and other criminals will slip through and onto our streets. Virtually all cocaine and heroin -- and a majority of marijuana -- sold and consumed in this country is produced abroad. Smuggling operations, increasingly run by organized crime groups, sneak tens of thousands of illegal immigrants into the United States. Every year, smuggling of drugs, illegal firearms, stolen cars and child pornography present formidable challenges which the Strategy addresses.

Stretching more than 2,000 miles, the United States-Mexico border has been plagued by drug and contraband smuggling, violent crime and illegal immigration. A majority of the narcotics and dangerous drugs seized in the United States has passed through Mexico, and over half of all illegal immigrants in the United States originated from that country. In fiscal year 1997, border authorities apprehended approximately 1.36 million aliens attempting to cross the Southwest border illegally. The Southwest border is also a transshipment point for contraband being smuggled out of the United States, including stolen motor vehicles, goods stolen from interstate commerce, illegal firearms, and illicit currency (primarily the proceeds of drug trafficking). Outbound enforcement is thus a key component to attacking these crimes.

The Southwest Border Initiative

In 1993, the Administration launched a comprehensive plan to crack down on drugs, violent crime and smuggling along the Southwest border. The plan - the Southwest Border Initiative - involved a major expansion in federal law enforcement personnel, augmented aid to state and local law enforcement, increased cooperative efforts with Mexican law enforcement officials, deployed additional state-of-the-art detection and surveillance technology, and coordinated the overall U.S. effort more effectively.

Under the Southwest Border Initiative, more than 550 new prosecutors and 1,200 new immigration officers have already been dedicated to combating violent crime, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and smuggling along this border. Federal funds also have been directed to local communities along the border to hire hundreds of new police officers. This plan will continue to be implemented vigorously and, within projected agency budget targets, will be expanded to include new resources and new technology as they come on line.

Recent increases in law enforcement efforts along the Southwest border have helped to generate dramatic results.

Between 1994 and 1995 serious crime dropped approximately 30 percent in San Diego and approximately 20 percent in Brownsville, Texas. After the deployment of new inspection techniques by the Customs Service, narcotics seizures increased by 24 percent in 1996 alone. As we continue to strengthen patrol of our southern border, we will improve efforts along other border regions, which are increasingly gaining the attention of smugglers as our Southwest border efforts thwart their criminal actions.

In addition, since 1995, federal law enforcement agencies along the Southwest border have intensified efforts to identify, investigate, prosecute and remove law enforcement officials stationed along the border who are involved in corrupt activities or who use their positions of trust to facilitate illegal activity. These efforts include investment of resources and manpower by federal agencies and the creation of public corruption task forces and interagency working groups to form a strong, unified response to corruption along the border.

Deploying New Detection and Identification Technologies

To combat increasingly sophisticated smugglers, more sophisticated detection and identification technology will be used along our borders. Advanced technology has been deployed both at official ports of entry and along open stretches of the borders to leverage patrol and inspection teams' skills in preventing or responding to illegal entry. For example, night scopes and hidden seismic, metallic and infrared sensors are being installed, and helicopters are being deployed, along the Southwest border.

As surreptitious alien entry by land, sea and air becomes more difficult, smugglers are forced to try a different tack such as coming through ports of entry with fraudulent documents. The Strategy calls for law enforcement to use advanced technologies, including database programs that allow inspectors to sift out low-risk travelers and concentrate on more highly suspect entrants. Further, deploying our portable computerized biometric and fingerprint systems will allow for quicker identification of smugglers and other criminals.

High energy x-ray imaging equipment that allows inspectors to probe containers for the presence of contraband quickly and effectively is also being used increasingly. The presence of this new technology at ports of entry contributed to a 115 percent increase in contraband seizures along the Southwest border between fiscal year 1995 and 1996, with cocaine seizures up five-fold. The Customs Service operates four truck x-ray systems along the Southwest border, one prototype mobile truck x-ray system, and one prototype gamma ray system. Since becoming operational, the four truck x-ray systems have been involved in 150 drug seizures totaling over 18,000 pounds of drugs. Customs plans to double the number of such systems along the Southwest border by the end of 1998.

Cooperation with the Private Sector

To assist in interdicting narcotics smuggling at our land, air and sea borders, the Customs Service developed the Carrier Initiative Program and the Business Anti-Smuggling Coalition, joint efforts between Customs and the transportation industry through which legitimate carriers strengthen their cooperation with law enforcement authorities. Presently, 3,900 carriers have signed agreements under these programs. Through these agreements, Customs provides expert advice on how to secure carrier operations against smugglers, and the carriers provide Customs with valuable intelligence information. In fiscal year 1997, information from these two programs resulted in 74 seizures totaling 12,700 pounds of narcotics. In 1998, Customs is expanding this program to South America. There, Customs officers will assist exporters, carriers, manufacturers and other businesses by performing security site surveys, developing and implementing security programs, conducting post-seizure analyses, fostering information exchange, and providing guidance on technology deployment and application, all to safeguard legitimate trade from being used to smuggle narcotics.

The Customs Service also employs a strategy called the "investigative bridge" that focuses its investigative resources on the transportation organizations operating from various command and control centers around the country. This approach seeks to draw a complete picture of drug smuggling organizations and individuals involved from the trucks or trucking companies used in the initial border crossing to the point in the United States where the drugs are distributed, and, in reverse, from the point in the United States where the drugs are sold to the means used to transport the proceeds out of the country.

2. Improving the Effectiveness of Maritime and Air Smuggling Interdiction Efforts in the Transit Zone

The Coast Guard and Customs Service, with assistance from the Department of Defense, regularly conduct maritime interdiction operations against drug and migrant smuggling. These agencies will combine efforts with other federal agencies as well as foreign coastal forces to provide a maximum return on resources expended. The Administration has launched a series of initiatives to create effective interdiction and investigative capabilities that disrupt smugglers' sea and air routes.

The Caribbean has long been a particularly popular smuggling route. The second most significant drug trafficking route into the United States, after the Southwest border, is through the Caribbean, specifically Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In response to this threat, in March 1996, the Administration launched Operation Gateway, a Customs led program which combines over 600 personnel from 26 federal, state and local agencies, complemented by an intelligence coordinating center. Gateway's goal is to secure the waters and airspace around these U.S. territories from narcotics traffickers. Customs aircraft fly radar patrol operations, conduct surveillance and help capture suspect aircraft and vessels. In its first year of operation, Gateway resulted in a 32 percent increase in Customs cocaine seizures over the previous year. Simultaneously, the Coast Guard and Defense Department are joining forces with the British and Dutch governments to create a 36-ship interdiction fleet that aggressively patrols the Caribbean for smuggling vessels.

Operation Frontier Shield, an interagency, international maritime interdiction effort spearheaded by the Coast Guard, has had notable success interdicting drugs and other contraband moving through Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since its inception in fiscal year 1997. In its first year, Frontier Shield forces seized 23 vessels transporting 31,127 pounds of cocaine, arrested more than 100 suspects, and disrupted 17 additional deliveries of approximately 37,400 pounds of cocaine. It also reduced the flow of cocaine to Puerto Rico by an estimated 46%. The combined street value of Frontier Shield seizures and disruptions exceeds $2.4 billion.

3. Targeting Enforcement and Prosecutorial Resources More Effectively Against Smuggling Crimes and Organizations

Attacking Alien Smuggling

The nation's borders must be secured against illegal alien smuggling activities. The UN estimates that as many as four million people are smuggled into foreign countries each year, generating up to $7 billion annually in illicit profits for criminal syndicates. It is U.S. policy to interdict all illegal alien smuggling at the border, to divert all incomplete attempts to cross the border illegally, to repatriate all illegal aliens caught within our borders and to prosecute and punish illegal alien smugglers. By interdicting migrants before they enter the United States, they can be returned quickly to their countries of origin without the costly processes required if they enter the United States. In fiscal year 1996, the Coast Guard interdicted over 9,000 migrants at sea, thereby saving taxpayers an estimated $30 million in detention and deportation costs. To enhance our efforts against alien smuggling, federal agencies will improve their collection and dissemination of intelligence about overseas alien smuggling operations.

Effective border defense also plays a vital role in fighting international crime beyond halting the flow of illegal aliens. As our land, sea and air defense improves, aliens still seeking illegal entry increasingly resort to sophisticated smuggling operations. These operations have links to organized crime, drug traffickers and traffickers in women and children. Some illegal aliens carry narcotics to pay their way. Smuggling is also a source of funds for organized crime groups who use these funds to finance other illicit activities. For instance, the Coast Guard estimates that smugglers charge approximately $6 million to ferry one large boat load (150 people) of illegal Chinese aliens across the Pacific. A strong response to alien smuggling will pay dividends by halting the larger problem of international crime.

Experience shows this aggressive approach is a successful one. Since 1993, the Administration has coordinated the interdiction and repatriation of approximately 3,000 illegal Chinese aliens on 14 vessels. In 1995, federal prosecutors in five districts along the Southwest border brought 563 alien smuggling cases -- a 69 percent increase over the previous year. Anti-smuggling apprehensions by the Border Patrol also were up -- five-fold in San Diego -- over 1993 levels.

The Administration is requesting over $280 million for new border-related initiatives. These funds will place 1,000 new Border Patrol agents on the front lines and equip them with state of the art infrared scopes and night vision goggles. They will also support programs to detain and remove aliens, including criminal aliens.

The United States also is stepping up efforts in five areas to combat smuggling away from our borders: (1) providing model legislation to other countries; (2) conducting training overseas for border patrol and immigration officials; (3) providing automated visa "lookout" systems to source countries; (4) enhancing information sharing about alien smuggling operations and trends among federal agencies and, where possible, with other countries; and (5) conducting public awareness campaigns in source and transit countries on the dangers of alien smuggling.

Halting Smuggling Out of the United States

The Administration will also seek further criminal penalties for certain specific acts of outbound smuggling. First, the laws should be improved to increase the cost of smuggling contraband out of the United States. While Congress long ago created a general criminal statute for illegal importation activity, no equivalent general statute exists for illegal exports. Current criminal export statutes deal only with narrow, specific issues such as illegal exports of munitions or technology. New legislation is required to create a general criminal statute covering all export activity conducted contrary to law.

Another target is illicit trafficking in liquor and tobacco, a major source of revenue for organized crime. A steep excise tax on liquor in Canada has created a large black market for spirits smuggled in from the United States. Monies obtained through this market strengthen organized crime and finance other illegal activities, such as money laundering, alien smuggling, narcotics trafficking and illegal firearms trafficking. The Strategy seeks to combat liquor smuggling by giving federal officials new powers under the ICCA to stop illegal liquor trafficking as soon as the spirits are shipped in violation of state or federal law. Recommended legislation would also close a loophole by prohibiting merchandise smuggling into foreign countries by means of vehicles or aircraft (in addition to the existing prohibition against smuggling via vessel) and by modifying statutes that currently hamper Customs' authority to search outbound mail for currency, monetary instruments, and contraband.

Between 1.4 and 1.6 million automobiles are stolen in the United States every year. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a private investigative organization, estimates that 200,000 of these vehicles, valued at approximately $1 billion, are taken out of the United States. This serious property crime results not only in the loss of personal vehicles but in higher insurance rates as well. In fiscal year 1997, Customs recovered 2,119 stolen vehicles worth over $35 million.

Law enforcement agencies will mount increased efforts to interdict these stolen vehicles at our nation's borders, and the Department of State is intensifying its efforts to increase the number of treaties that provide for the return of these vehicles to the rightful owners when they are discovered in foreign countries. To this end, the Department of State has negotiated, and will continue to negotiate, stolen vehicle recovery treaties with those countries -- primarily in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe -- into which the majority of stolen U.S. vehicles are smuggled. The FBI is also working with Customs officials to process quickly the vehicle identification numbers of cars presented for export at our nation's seaports and to identify and stop those that have been reported stolen. New technology currently being tested at the Port of Miami also shows great promise. It allows inspectors to scan a cargo container for the presence of a car while the container is being weighed, a process that does not delay the flow of commerce. The Department of the Treasury is working with Mexican government officials representing the commerce and finance ministries on a four-part program to improve control over legitimate movement of automobiles across the border and to deal with large scale trafficking in stolen automobiles. This cooperative effort will include Mexican access to information on vehicles reported stolen in the United States.

4. Seek New and Stiffer Criminal Penalties for Smuggling Activities

The Problem of Portrunning

As law enforcement officials make it tougher for criminals to slip undetected across our borders, smugglers are becoming increasingly daring in their willingness to confront inspectors head on. Such activity includes "port-running," intentionally evading inspections by driving through ports of entry without stopping, which puts federal officials and civilians alike at risk of injury. The Administration has successfully used construction of physical barriers in the fight against port- running. More must be done to deter and punish this dangerous practice. Similarly, if a suspect vessel fails to "heave to," that is, to slow to facilitate a law enforcement boarding, the Coast Guard must first fire a warning shot across the bow and then disable the vessel if it does not respond. While there are civil penalties for failing to respond to a "heave to" command, no criminal equivalent currently exists to cover such activity or crimes of violence committed in the course of evading border controls. The proposed ICCA would establish a specific criminal penalty for port-running, as well as enhancing existing criminal penalties for related activities. Such penalties are needed to deter vessels from fleeing Coast Guard, INS and Customs interdiction efforts and jettisoning contraband and evidence in the process. Legislation is also required that would punish individuals who provide false information to boarding officials. Sanctions are needed to compel individuals to provide truthful data regarding the vessel's destination, origin, ownership, registration, nationality, cargo and crew.

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