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American Customs Service

Published Monday, December 16, 19 | By PaulvHill

The United States Customs Service was an agency of the U.S. federal government that collected import tariffs and performed other selected border security duties.

In March 2003, as a result of the homeland security reorganization, the U.S. Customs Service was renamed the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, and most of its components were merged with the border elements of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, including the entire U.S. Border Patrol and former INS inspectors, together with border agriculture inspectors, to form U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a single, unified border agency for the U.S. The investigative office of U.S. Customs was split off and merged with the INS investigative office and the INS interior detention and removal office to form Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which, among other things, is responsible for interior immigration enforcement. The United States Customs Service had three major missions: collecting tariff revenue, protecting the U.S. economy from smuggling and illegal goods, and processing people and goods at ports of entry.

History

Responding to the urgent need for revenue following the American Revolutionary War, the First United States Congress passed and President George Washington signed the Tariff Act of July 4, 1789, which authorized the collection of duties on imported goods. Four weeks later, on July 31, the fifth act of Congress established the United States Customs Service and its ports of entry.

As part of this new government agency, a new role was created for government officials which were known as “Customs Collector”. In this role, one person would have the responsibility to supervise the collection of customs duties in a particular city or region.

For over 100 years after it was founded, the U.S. Customs Service was the primary source of funds for the entire government and paid for the country’s early growth and infrastructure. Purchases include the Louisiana and Oregon territories; Florida and Alaska; funding the National Road and the Transcontinental Railroad; building many of the nation’s lighthouses; the U.S. Military and Naval academies, and Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Customs Service employed a number of federal law enforcement officers throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Customs Special Agents investigated smuggling and other violations of customs, narcotics and revenue laws. Customs Inspectors were uniformed officers at airports, seaports and land border ports of entry who inspected people and vehicles entering the U.S. for contraband and dutiable merchandise. Customs Patrol Officers conducted uniformed and plainclothes patrol of the borders on land, sea, and air to deter smuggling and apprehend smugglers.

In the 20th century, as international trade and travel increased dramatically, the Customs Service transitioned from an administrative bureau to a federal law enforcement agency. Inspectors still inspected goods and took customs declarations from travelers at ports of entry, but Customs Special Agents used modern police methods—often in concert with allied agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of InvestigationU.S. Postal Inspection ServiceU.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. Border Patrol—to investigate cases often far from international airports, bridges and land crossings. The original World Trade Center complex, particularly building 6 housed offices of the US customs service.
With the passage of the Homeland Security Act, the U.S. Customs Service passed from under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security.

On March 1, 2003, parts of the U.S. Customs Service combined with the Inspections Program of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine from USDA, and the Border Patrol of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to form U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Federal Protective Service, along with the investigative arms of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, combined to form U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Examples of illegal items

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