US flag Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Archived Content

In an effort to keep current, the archive contains content from a previous administration or is otherwise outdated.

CBP Agriculture Specialists In Southern Arizona Intercept Plants, Insects

Release Date: 
September 24, 2012

Nogales, Ariz. - A large number of live and dead insect specimens, as well as more than two dozen live plants, were seized last week in a pair of incidents by Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at the Nogales Ports of Entry.

CBP Ag Specialists seize insect specimens from individual attempting to smuggle them into the United States

Agriculture specialists discovered assorted plants and at least 65 live and dead insects this month, concealed in a personal vehicle attempting to enter the United States from Mexico. The driver initially denied having items of agricultural interest, but when officers referred the vehicle for secondary inspection, an agriculture specialist found more than two dozen live plants with soil for propagation. Officers also found a variety of live and dead insect specimens inside a suitcase, as well as an undetermined number of insects when officers asked the driver to turn out his pockets.

The driver told officers he was a PhD student at the University of Arizona.

The agricultural products were seized and destroyed, as per port policy the insects and soil were submitted to the local U.S. Department of Agriculture for final identification.

On the following day, Agriculture specialists referred an incoming vehicle for additional inspection. When officers inspected the vehicle, they found an assortment of insect collection equipment and a plastic bag with 86 insect specimens. While quarantine procedures were not necessary due to the insects being dead, the specimens were detained by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for inspection and entry determination.

In both instances, the drivers paid a civil penalty for failure to declare the prohibited cargo.

Travelers are required to abide by a number of laws, such as obtaining permits to properly import certain items from Mexico. Violators face a spot-settlement under the Plant Protection Act. If objecting to the fine, the violation is forwarded to the USDA Investigative and Enforcement Services for collection. Fines can be as much as $1,000 for a first-time offense.

Travelers should know the difference between restricted and prohibited merchandise before attempting to bring items into the United States. For more information, visit the Restricted/Prohibited section of the CBP website. The USDA also offers a Supplemental Import Guide, available at the Mexican land border, which identifies allowed agriculture items for personal use.

Travelers may also obtain information regarding fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood under the "Bringing Agricultural Products into the United States" section of the CBP website.

CBP officers are permitted to inspect personal belongings without a search warrant. This includes luggage, vehicles and personal searches.

CBP's agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in agricultural and biological inspection to prevent the introduction of harmful plant pests and foreign animal diseases into the United States. CBP inspectors have the expertise to recognize and prevent the entry of organisms that could potentially devastate entire segments of the U.S. agriculture-related economy.

CBP's Office of Field Operations is the primary organization within Homeland Security tasked with an anti-terrorism mission at our nation's ports. CBP officers screen all people, vehicles and goods entering the United States while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. Their mission also includes carrying out border-related duties, including narcotics interdiction, enforcing immigration and trade laws, and protecting the nation's food supply and agriculture industry from pests and diseases.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017