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Thursday, May 28, 2009, marked the 85th anniversary of the United States Border Patrol. Founded in 1924, the U.S. Border Patrol was established in El Paso, Texas, and Detroit, Michigan. The Purpose: To combat the illegal entry of aliens, contraband, and the flow of illicit liquor from Mexico and Canada into the United States. The U.S Border Patrol is steeped in a long and rich history that is passed down to each new recruit as they begin their careers at the academy. The newly organized El Paso Border Patrol Station was assigned 25 Patrol Inspectors, many of whom were recruited from the ranks of the Texas Rangers. Today, The Border Patrol boasts over 18,000 agents, in 20 sectors, and 164 stations around the nation.
Under the authority of the Immigration Act, approved by Congress on May 28, 1924, the Border Patrol was created as a uniformed law enforcement branch of the Immigration Bureau. This prompted the establishment of the El Paso Border Patrol Sector on July 1, 1924. It was the height of Prohibition in the United States, and organized crime was a growing concern, as the mafia controlled a majority of the alcohol being smuggled into the United States. As a result, liquor smuggling from Mexico and Canada became a well organized, thriving industry. The opportunity to earn substantial sums of money became a temptation for many illegal aliens that were willing to enter the United States carrying a few crates of contraband.
It wasn’t long before gun battles began to erupt between Border Patrolmen, and smugglers attempting to avoid arrest. In February 1927, El Paso Sector experienced one of the bloodiest months for the agency. As old newspapers report, during the entire month, there had not been a 24-hour period of time without a gunfight between smugglers and Patrol Inspectors. These gunfights added to the renown of the Border Patrol, as patrolmen gained a reputation for winning most of these shootouts.
Almost immediately after the establishment of the El Paso Station, a need was seen to have officers at outlying locations. Other stations soon opened within the sector. The Border Patrol began to grow, as the situation along the border was steadily deteriorating.
As the prohibition era reached the peak of its infamy; lawlessness and violence became more common along the water borders of the Detroit Sector. Several Detroit Sector Patrol Inspectors were killed in the line of duty during this period, as smugglers attempting to bring contraband across the border resorted to violence to protect their cargo from the Border Patrol Inspectors.
Eighty-five years later, the Border Patrol has evolved into the finest law enforcement organization in the world. On a daily basis, the Border Patrol is confronted with a large number of threats that would never have been conceived of at the time of the agency’s inception. Criminal organizations have evolved as well, adopting a wide variety of weapons and technology to aid them in their efforts to enter the United States while smuggling human cargo and other contraband.
Since 9-11, the agency has had to adapt yet again, to our nations newest threat; terrorism. The U.S. Border Patrol has proven over its long history that its men and women are up to the task ahead, and stand ready at our nation’s borders.
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"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." - Winston Churchill