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Officers stop 112 vehicles with prohibited items in one day at US/Mexican border

SAN DIEGO – During a one-day enforcement effort targeting agriculture, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agriculture specialists stopped 112 vehicles with prohibited items, including flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables and meat.

Operation Heartbreaker took place Feb. 14 at the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, and Tecate ports of entry with several local, state, and federal agencies participating with CBP’s Office of Field Operations, including San Diego County Agriculture, San Diego County Health and Human Services, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Officials found a fairly typical collection of items brought by cross-border travelers that are restricted or prohibited from entering the United States from Mexico, including: apples, candied apples, avocados, flowers (choiysa, chrysanthemums, juniper), citrus peels, grapefruit, lemon grass, mandarins, mangoes, oranges, pears, potted plants, plums, potatoes, sugar cane, sweet limes, tangerines, wheat stems, bacon, chicharrones, chorizo, consommé, cueritos (pork skins), chicken eggs, turkey eggs, ham, hot dogs, and skunk meat.

Officials also inspected a number of items that are allowed into the country after a thorough inspection declares them pest-free, including firewood, herbs, palm leaves, and flowers, such as myrtle. CBP agriculture specialists seized beans from one traveler after they were discovered to be infested with pests.

“We urge anyone crossing the border to declare all items to the CBP officer,” said Paul Morris, director of field operations for CBP in San Diego. “By inspecting these products, we can prevent infested items from entering the United States. And, if travelers declare items that turn out to be prohibited from entering the United States, they can avoid a monetary penalty. If they fail to declare a prohibited item, CBP agriculture specialists will still seize it, and the driver can face a stiff monetary penalty.”

CBP officers issued four warning letters to SENTRI participants who declared flowers that were, in fact, prohibited from entering the U.S., and issued two monetary penalties to non-SENTRI travelers, one for a person carrying undeclared turkey eggs and chorizo, and the other for someone with live propagative plants (intended for growing new plants.)

After inspecting all of the products, CBP agriculture specialists found a total of 13 insects, three plant diseases, two seeds, fresh lemon grass, and citrus leaves that required further testing and inspection by other agencies.

A CBP agriculture detector canine team discovered a number of agriculture products in the forty vehicles they screened, including about two pounds of chicharrones, almost five pounds of chorizo, an orange, three apples, a dozen tangerines and two avocados.

CBP enforces hundreds of laws every time someone crosses into the United States from a foreign country, many related to agriculture. Enforcing these laws and regulations helps protect U.S. Agriculture. For example, if these pests and diseases were introduced to this country, it could costs millions of dollars to eradicate.

“It can seem innocent enough to try and bring one orange or a bouquet of flowers home from Mexico,” said Leslie Gomez-Montez, CBP’s agriculture program manager in San Diego.“However, these prohibited items are prohibited for a reason. Oranges, for example, are a potential host for exotic fruit flies that don’t yet have a foothold in the United States and would be devastating to the extensive California citrus industry. And, we’ve found Chrysanthemum White Rust and Gladiolus Rust – high risk agriculture diseases for the flower industry – on some bouquets intercepted at the border from travelers arriving from Mexico.”


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