CBP Seattle Field Office Has Outstanding Year-End Results
Seattle - More than 19.7 million travelers were welcomed to the United States by the 1,556 officers and 123 agriculture specialists of U.S. Customs and Border Protection assigned to the Seattle Field Office during fiscal year 2009 (October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009). Among those travelers, CBP made 1,792 arrests, discovered $4.5 million in smuggled currency and seized more than 13,000 pounds of illegal drugs.
The CBP Seattle Field Office manages the 67 ports of entry stretching from the Pacific Ocean across the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota to Grand Portage on Lake Superior. Arriving at these ports were 1.1 million commercial trucks, 2.7 million containers of goods, 7.69 million automobiles, 13,000 trains, 16,000 international aircraft and 31,000 vessels, ferries and pleasure craft.
"In another year of both challenges and changes, CBP continues to bear the great privilege and responsibility of maintaining vigilance at our nation's borders," said Seattle Field Office Director Michele James. "We are extremely proud of the role our agency performs in facilitating the flow of legitimate international travel and trade while safeguarding the homeland from threats abroad."
While facilitating that flow of more than 13 million foreign nationals into the United States through the SFO ports, CBP officers also refused entry to more than 9,400 aliens who were deemed inadmissible. Most aliens are simply permitted to withdraw their application for entry, but 258 aliens with significant criminal histories were processed for expedited removal and returned directly to the country from which they entered.
CBP officers screen all people, vehicles, conveyances and goods entering the United States. While anti-terrorism is the primary mission, the inspection process at the ports of entry results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories, including illegal drugs, unsafe goods, contaminated products and other contraband.
Arrests of criminal fugitives remain a crucial element of CBP's daily mission and involve a wide range of misdeeds stretching across the country and international boundaries. For example, CBP officers in Pembina, N.D., arrested a man wanted by Interpol for murder in his native Bosnia and Herzegovina. Officers in Blaine, Wash., arrested a man attempting to flee to Canada after allegedly murdering his wife only days earlier in California. When placing him in handcuffs officers noticed wounds on his wrists, apparently from her struggle with him.
Other arrests covered a variety of crimes including money laundering, robbery, narcotics distribution, sexual abuse of children, larceny and military desertion. The oldest person arrested was a 76-year-old man from Grand Junction, Colo., for assault on a child and soliciting for child prostitution; the oldest woman arrested was a 68-year-old sought by the FBI for telemarketing and mail fraud and other predatory crimes against the elderly. Removing predatory criminals from society is part of the protective mission CBP officers perform on a daily basis.
Narcotics smuggling is an ongoing international threat that CBP continually combats, countering the ever expanding resourcefulness of the drug cartels. CBP officers in Sumas, Wash., inspected a commercial truck hauling 43 beef cows; after scraping off the natural byproduct of cattle and enduring the associated odors, they discovered concealed in the trailer floors 1,746 pounds of "BC Bud," worth more than $6 million concealed in the trailer floors. "BC Bud" is a highly potent form of marijuana cultivated in British Columbia, Canada.
Significant seizures of other drugs made headlines locally when a Calgary, Alberta, man was arrested with 238 pounds of cocaine that he had transported north from the US-Mexican border and a moving van was found to be hauling $3 million of cocaine in a secret compartment. A 30-year-old Vancouver, British Columbia, woman who claimed to be traveling to Seattle to visit a sick aunt was arrested for smuggling 134,000 tablets of ecstasy hidden within the gas tank of her sport utility vehicle. These and other continuing interdictions prevent sizeable amounts of illicit and harmful drugs from spreading to the streets of our communities and within reach of our youth.
CBP continues to protect families and consumers by seizing prohibited, unlawful or undeclared goods upon importation into the U.S. In Seattle, CBP officers and investigators from the Consumer Product Safety Commission seized 499 cartons of toy jewelry arriving from China and valued at more than $48,000 because samples taken from the shipment for testing were found to contain unacceptable levels of lead, in violation of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. The toy jewelry posed a direct threat to children's health. In Pembina, N.D., officers seized counterfeit Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses worth more than $122,000. Counterfeit goods cost U.S. businesses in excess of $200 billion annually and are directly responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs. Combating this problem remains an important part of the CBP mission.
Looking to the future, CBP Seattle Field Office management successfully completed construction of the congressionally-mandated Olympic Coordination Center in Bellingham, Wash., in advance of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games which will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in February and March. The purpose of the OCC is to coordinate and synchronize federal, tribal, state, local, and Canadian security partners and resources in order to provide a safe, secure Washington State and northern border during the Olympics and related events. Approximately 20 federal, state, and local agencies have dedicated personnel to staff the OCC, and tested various communication and information-sharing protocols during the World Police and Fire Games held in Vancouver in August. The Seattle Field Office has been planning and partnering in advance of these international events, and stands prepared to ensure that the American homeland is safeguarded.
However, it is not just international events that keep the officers and staff of CBP razor-sharp but also visits by international dignitaries. In April, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled head of state and spiritual leader, arrived at Sea-Tac Airport and was received by CBP officers for an expedited clearance. The Dalai Lama was visiting the Seattle area for a series of events in an attempt to highlight the vision, science and programs of early social, emotional and cognitive learning.
CBP recognizes that there is an ever-present threat of the intentional or unintentional contamination of our agriculture food chain, including agro-terrorism. The CBP agriculture specialists of the Seattle Field Office are charged with protecting a $1.5 trillion domestic agriculture industry by preventing the introduction into the United States of plant and animal pests and diseases that could prove devastating to our livestock, crops and forests.
Travelers entering the U.S. may unknowingly carry threats that would be damaging to our food supply and natural resources. Imported agricultural products and live animals can harbor destructive insects such as exotic fruit flies and Asian longhorned beetles, and animal diseases including Newcastle disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a. "mad cow" disease, foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza ("bird flu"). These tiny invaders could destroy large portions of our agriculture and forest resources, costing farmers, ranchers and consumers billions of dollars, unless they are stopped at the border.
Some of the significant interceptions in the SFO in the last year include Asian gypsy moths, Khapra beetles and exotic snails. On numerous occasions, agriculture specialists in Seattle detected Asian gypsy moth egg masses on incoming cargo ships and cargo containers. These detections led to increased inspections nationwide for these highly dispersive and destructive forest pests, which have the potential to devastate our national forests and urban neighborhoods.
Khapra beetles, one of the world's most destructive pests of stored foodstuffs, were also discovered on a vessel in Puget Sound, prompting greater scrutiny of all maritime vessels arriving from outside the United States. In Blaine, Wash., agriculture specialists found harmful snails on imported herbs that were falsely manifested as to their country of origin. This resulted in severe restrictions on all herb importations from that nation.
CBP's Seattle Field Office maintains constant vigilance to prevent the entry into our nation of terrorists and their weapons while carrying out traditional border enforcement responsibilities across five states and three time zones.
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.