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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Border Security/Alien Smuggling


Porous borders are a threat to developing countries, as well as to the United States. Lax border controls greatly enhance the ability of international criminals, smugglers, and terrorists to expand their operations and avoid these controls, suborn them through corruption, negate them with falsified documentation, or overwhelm them. Lax border controls facilitate the smuggling of narcotics, terrorists, criminals, illegal migrants, weapons, stolen natural resources, and other contraband. In some countries, effective control of the movement of persons, vehicles, and cargo across national borders is non-existent. Border control officials are poorly trained and equipped and inspections facilities are substandard.

As the first line of defense for many countries, effective border controls provide substantial deterrence to smugglers and transnational organized crime networks. They can force them into other, less attractive, routes, provoke traffickers into taking measures that raise their operational costs, and make traffickers more vulnerable to law enforcement countermeasures. Borders are also the points at which to collect important intelligence. Information gleaned from seizures, arrests, and documents can provide leads useful to making even bigger cases that help dismantle major international criminal syndicates. Successful enforcement at the border is also a powerful instrument for generating greater public support for fighting transnational crime. Improvements in border security enhance law enforcement cooperation, reduce corruption, increase revenue collections, and strengthen rule of law in developing countries.

The smuggling of illegal migrants, which can serve as a vehicle for terrorist entry into the United States, is a major national security concern. Identifying, disrupting and dismantling criminal networks, especially those that can be used by extremist groups, has become a high priority for U.S. authorities. An important aspect of the U.S. government’s approach to deterring and preventing the flow of illegal aliens into the United States involves disrupting alien smuggling organizations as far from our shores as possible. This means that the fight against alien smuggling must begin in foreign lands where our influence and law enforcement authorities are more limited. Weak foreign law enforcement institutions, corrupt public officials, and inadequately trained police make it imperative that guidance and technical assistance be provided to illegal alien source and transit countries.

INL will continue to assist selected countries to strengthen their border control regimes and make it more difficult for criminals and terrorists who threaten the interests of the United States to pass through without being detected and apprehended. INL will also work with our international partners to interdict and halt alien smuggling as far from our borders as possible.

INL border security programs help priority countries improve their port and airport security practices, through education initiatives, training, and technical assistance. The strengthening of security at ports and airports will help to prevent criminal and terrorist acts that could have an adverse impact on trade and transportation with the United States. INL’s Border Security and Alien Smuggling program objectives are:

  • Raise border security awareness and standards globally;
  • Improve individual nations’ capacity to control their borders, impede illicit movement of people, narcotics, arms, bulk cash, counterfeit goods, and other contraband;
  • Build international capabilities to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling and other criminal smuggling networks and organizations.
  • Improve global travel document security and the integrity of the issuance processes.

The INL border security program works with UNODC, INTERPOL, OAS and other appropriate international organizations to raise border security awareness and global standards, and to provide targeted assistance and training to build international border control and law enforcement capacity. INL also works closely with the Departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security, and other relevant US law enforcement agencies to deliver effective training programs and technical assistance designed to enhance capabilities to identify fraudulent documents and methods of moving large quantities of cash, fraudulently documented individuals, weapons, and other contraband across international borders. INL works with the Bureau of Consular Affairs to deliver passport fraud prevention technical assistance in order to improve the integrity of developing countries’ passport issuance systems. INL also helps to coordinate the activities of the U.S. interagency anti-smuggling community in their efforts to disrupt and dismantle major alien smuggling rings which operate both domestically and overseas.


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