San Diego - With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials want to warn cross-border travelers that importing fireworks from Mexico into California is prohibited.
CBP officers have stepped up their enforcement efforts at California ports of entry to ensure the sometimes crude and dangerous products do not enter San Diego County, where the fire danger most likely will increase over the summer months.
Travelers returning from Mexico to the U.S. at land border stations in San Diego County annually abandon thousands of dollars worth of fireworks. CBP officers at San Diego area ports of entry have collected more than 25 pounds of illegal fireworks during the past few weeks and are expecting more as Independence Day approaches.
"Many travelers do not understand that it is illegal to import these dangerous devices," said Paul Morris, director of field operations for CBP in San Diego. "Imported fireworks can be dangerous because of the fire hazard and irregularities in manufacturing. Each year our officers confiscate hundreds of pieces of fireworks and turn them over to the San Diego fire department bomb squad for disposal."
Realizing that some border travelers may be tempted to purchase fireworks in Mexico during the days leading up to the Fourth of July celebration, Morris said CBP wants to warn residents now so they can avoid risk of possible injury as well as the financial loss caused by confiscation of the fireworks as well as possible civil or criminal penalties.
"When people innocently arrive at the border with fireworks and properly declare them, we are required to confiscate the merchandise, but without penalty," he said. "Those who try to circumvent the law by failing to declare the merchandise face stiff monetary penalties."
Travelers who attempt to smuggle illegal fireworks into the country face penalties ranging from confiscation of the contraband to seizure of the transporting vehicle and monetary fines equal to the U.S. dollar value of the fireworks. In addition, arrest and prosecution are possible in the more egregious cases.
"We encourage people to take advantage of the many licensed fireworks displays in San Diego rather than a do-it-yourself display," Morris said. "Public displays offer a larger show and are safer for all involved."