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Border crossers who import prohibited plant, animal products face fines of up to $10,000 this Thanksgiving

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — With Thanksgiving Day on the horizon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to remind people what cannot be brought across the border from Mexico.

Customs and Border Protection Officer Rosalinda Maizuss. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

In recent weeks, CBP officers have been busy confiscating not only things like fruits, bird seed, eggs and sausages, but insects, firewood and even monkeys.

The public is reminded that most fruits and animal products are not allowed through ports of entry.

“The message that I want to drive is to make sure everybody knows what they can and cannot bring back from Mexico like oranges, apples, mangos, and there are other products that are not as common but people do bring back,” CBP Officer Rosalinda Maizuss said.

Maizuss said fruits are a particular danger because of what they might be carrying inside such as fruit flies.

“Those can cause a lot of damage to our agriculture that’s why we don’t take the risk. For example, a Mediterranean fruit fly infestation could absolutely devastate our agriculture.”

Customs and Border Protection Officer Matthew Lacy at his lab inside the San Ysidro Port of Entry. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

Other insects are also problematic; Tiny critters that can be found in things such as firewood, another item that’s not allowed through ports of entry.

“If you look closely, you can see these holes and little tunneling, and what causes that are wood-boring insects, specifically beetles,” said CBP Officer Matthew Lacy as he held a log recently taken in at the border. “Sometimes, they spread disease and it kills the trees, a lot of the forests in California and throughout the country are being infected by these wood-boring larvae.”

Lacy works for CBP’s agriculture department.

He and officer Maizuss are responsible for examining items seized by officers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

They have microscopes that allow them to look deep inside wood fragments and pieces of fruit as they look for signs of trouble.

They also slice fruits and do visual inspections before grinding the fruit or disposing of other materials in special containers.

“We’re looking for plant diseases as well,” Lacy said.

Most drivers can escape a fine by simply declaring they have fruit or other items that might be unlawful.

“It’s absolutely very important that they declare if they do have anything, or they may be subject to penalties from $300 up to $10,000, it could be costly.”

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