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U.S. Border Patrol Officers Prevent Cheese Smuggling Scheme

PHOTO: ROSSANDHELEN PHOTOQRAPHERS / GETTY IMAGES
PHOTO: ROSSANDHELEN PHOTOQRAPHERS / GETTY IMAGES

Last week, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers working at the Paso Del Norte border crossing in downtown El Paso, Texas, seized more than 100 pounds of undeclared wheels of cheese. The recent arrest comes as the Border Patrol continues to face influxes of migrants crossing the Southern Border between the U.S. and Mexico, even as the Biden administration argues that the border is secured.

According to officials, the incident began before 7:00 a.m. when a 2011 GMC Yukon arrived from Mexico, and a female American citizen in Albuquerque, declared 10 wheels of cheese to the CBP officer. The officer located the large dairy products in the vehicle’s trunk and examined an additional 50 wheels of undeclared cheese hidden under blankets in the back row of the woman’s car. Each cheese wheel weighed a little over two pounds, according to the CBP statement.

The CBP officer assessed a $1,000 civil penalty for smuggling her cheese wheels illegally, and she was released afterward. The contraband cheese was seized by CBP officials and destroyed as ordered by existing CBP guidelines.

“Travelers can import cheese commensurate with personal consumption levels,” said CBP El Paso Port Director Ray Provencio. “A few wheels would generally be fine but not 60. It was undeclared, and that amount would be a commercial quantity, and additional reporting requirements would apply.”

The statement from the U.S. CBP also noted that items like milk, cream, ice cream, butter, and many kinds of cheese are subject to strict quota restrictions administered by the agency and the Department of Agriculture. Cheeses, like the cheese brought by the individual from Albuquerque, are subjected to the Department of Agriculture’s  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requirements and the Food and Drug Administration’s(FDA) requirements.

The statement further explained that milk and cream must come into the U.S. with a permit from the FDA. Regarding wrappers or cartons for such products, they must have the country of origin printed. Officials concluded that all commercial imports of food and beverage products require the Filing of a Prior Notice with the FDA, and foreign manufacturers or distributors of food products must ” register with the FDA before their goods may be admitted.”

Since coming into office in 2020, the Biden administration has revoked measures from the Trump administration on the U.S.-Mexican Southern border, leading many migrants, drug cartels, smugglers, and others to come into America freely. According to reports, CBP officials have faced many migrant families and minors, pushing the agency and its officials to the brink. Drug cartels have successfully transported fentanyl and other dangerous and potent drugs into the U.S., landing in the hands of many young Americans and leading to overdoses.

With the crisis ongoing, Border Patrol agents have spoken out against the President and his handling of the border crisis, relaying their anger and frustration to their superiors. Despite their concerns, the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, has told reporters and members of Congress that the border is secured, highlighting operations in which border agents have prevented fentanyl smuggling. However, members of Congress argue that the Southern border remains unsecured, calling on the administration to take a more serious approach.

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