El Paso, Texas - U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at the El Paso port of entry have made several seizures in recent days however one in particular was not only significant but also unusual. CBP agriculture specialists found a disposable diaper filled with live plants.
"People have smuggled items in diaper bags and baby car seats before but it is rare to find prohibited agricultural items concealed in a disposable diaper," said William Molaski, CBP El Paso port director. "Smugglers can be crafty but they should be aware that CBP officers and agriculture specialists are on the front line stopping and containing agricultural threats at the border."
The seizure was made April 5 at the Bridge of the Americas international crossing in El Paso when a 1999 Dodge Caravan entered the port from Mexico. The driver, a female U.S. citizen from Hood River, Oregon, made a negative declaration for plants to the CBP officer at the primary inspection station. The vehicle was referred for a secondary inspection during which a CBP agriculture specialist searched the vehicle and found a bag under the seat. Taking a closer look inside the bag the agriculture specialist found a disposable diaper containing 10 live plants. The officer also found about a half pound of citrus leaves and blossoms in another hidden bag. Both items are prohibited
A civil penalty of $300.00 was assessed and collected for attempting to smuggle the prohibited agricultural items. Eight of the plants were destroyed by incineration. Two agave plants were turned over to the USDA for disposition because of possible Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) concerns.
"Declaring all items that you acquired while outside the U.S. is a way to avoid penalties and help CBP safeguard the nation's agricultural industry," said Molaski. "The public should also be aware that non-US citizens could risk losing their immigration documents if they attempt to knowingly conceal and fraudulently enter prohibited agricultural items into our country."
While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.
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.