CBP was established in 2003 as an arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. CBP agents monitor U.S. ports of entry and the areas in between. CBP has 58,000 employees and its agents may exercise only the authority granted to them under federal statutes and regulations.

Appropriately timed, the Immigration Policy Center reminds travelers of CBP officers' authority to search, interrogate, and arrest individuals in the United States. Agents may:

  • Search persons arriving at a U.S. port of entry and their personal effects without a warrant. The officers do not need a reason to suspect the individual is engaged in illegal activity before performing a search.
  • Search any railway car, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle that is "within a reasonable distance" from any external border of the United States. Under federal regulations, "reasonable distance" means 100 air miles.
  • Search for noncitizens on private lands (but not dwellings) within 25 miles of the border. To enter a home, CBP officers must obtain a search warrant issued by a judge or have consent of the occupants.
  • Interrogate any alien or person believed to be an alien as to his/her right to be or to remain in the United States. The government must show that "immigration officials believed the person was an alien before questioning him."
  • Arrest any noncitizen without a warrant whom they have "reason to believe" (probable cause) is in the United States in violation of the law and is likely to escape before a warrant can be issued.
  • Make arrests for any offense against the United States (including non-immigration related offenses) committed in the presence of the officer, or for any felony the officer has reason to believe the person to be arrested has committed.