Nogales, Ariz. - The first week of 2010 has been busy for agriculture specialists at the Nogales port of entry. They stopped 130 potential pests and issued almost $22,000 in penalties in connection with 91 attempts to bring prohibited agricultural items into the United States through the port.
"The first week or two of the new year are a particularly busy time of year for us as families return from visiting Mexico for the holidays," said Port Director Guadalupe Ramirez. "Our agriculture specialists go above and beyond during this time in order to prevent pests from entering on goods being brought back."
From January 3 through January 9, CBP agriculture specialists intercepted attempts at bringing apples, oranges, guavas, mangos, mamey, sapote, sugarcane, manzano peppers, membrillo, coconuts, avocados, pork products, eggs, raw poultry, lard, herbs and seeds, citrus leaves, birds, plants, and soil into the country by people hiding them in a variety of locations, including inside vehicles, suitcases, boxes, under seats, inside purses and backpacks, compartments built into vehicles, under blankets, and other means.
Further inspection of the seized goods resulted in the discovery of a variety of pests, including fruit flies, noxious weeds, and plant diseases, all of which have the potential for causing harm to the country's agriculture and livestock industry, as well as our food supply and forestry.
As a result of the discoveries, CBP issued $21,925 in civil penalties against those who were attempting to smuggle the prohibited items into the United States.
For their dedication and hard work protecting the country from pests and disease, the agriculture specialists at the Nogales port of entry were recently awarded the Commissioner's Unit Citation, given to them in recognition of their intercepting 694 significant pests during fiscal year 2009.
As a reminder, travelers are encouraged to declare all food items to CBP officials. Failure to declare prohibited agricultural items can result in civil penalties. Penalties for personal importations of undeclared, prohibited agricultural items, depending on the severity of the violation, can run as high as $1,000; and up to more than $250,000 for commercial importations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.