Day of Dead leads Customs Agents to search for more prohibited plants.

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Day of Dead leads Customs Agents to search for more prohibited plants.

By Craig Smith. CREATED Nov 1, 2013

NOGALES, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - Observing the Day of the Dead has Customs inspectors on extra alert at the border. 

They're on watch to prevent plant diseases from coming in with Mexican visitors.

Day of the Dead is more than processions.

Customs inspectors worry Mexicans crossing to observe Day of the Dead with relatives may bring flower and fruit decorations that could carry plant diseases that could threaten U.S. crops.

That means questioning, searching, and seeing what the dogs can sniff out.

Traci Filippi, the chief of agriculture inspections for all Arizona's ports says many people simply don't know many foods are prohibited, but others are smuggling.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: "Do you sometimes find people who will give away one item to think they're decoying you from looking for something else?"

"Yeah, we have seen that in the past where someone will declare that they have a prohibited item, they're willing to give it up and in reality what's going on is they have additional prohibited items they're trying to conceal or hide from us."
Fruit and vegetables go through a lab where specialists check them inside and out.

Customs and Border Protection says sometimes people will buy fruit in the U.S. and it will even have a sticker that says it's from this country; but if they take it to Mexico, and bring it back, the fruit has to be confiscated because you can't be sure it hasn't picked up a plant disease.
Mexican visitor Wendy Ibarra told inspectors about some apples and oranges she had in her car.  She says her father grows fruit for U.S. markets so she knows the problems diseased fruit can cause.

She laughed a bit as she conceded, "I forgot. Yeah. Because we have kids and I thought, oh, an apple and I thought they went away already. Sorry."


Craig Smith

Craig Smith

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Craig enjoys using innovative writing and visuals to make difficult stories easier to understand. As a newsroom manager at KGUN 9, Craig was part of the team that won three best newscast awards from Arizona Associated Press