McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As many border communities plan to celebrate Día de Los Muertos, or All Souls Day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials warn that some items used for holiday decorations are not allowed to cross from Mexico into the United States.
Prohibited items include orange jasmine, an ornamental greenery used to decorate altares (altars), which is formally called Murraya paniculata. The plant can carry the invasive Asian citrus psyllid insect Diaphorina citri Kuwayam, which can harm U.S. citrus crops and is not allowed in the United States.
The insect can cause citrus greening, called huanglongbing, which “is the most serious disease of citrus,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
CBP agriculture specialists are currently on the lookout for these banned items as Thursday’s Día de Los Muertos celebrations near, CBP officials said.
This is especially true at South Texas ports in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley where many families cross to celebrate the holiday from northern Mexican cities.
“As All Souls Day draws near, CBP agriculture specialists at South Texas ports of entry tend to see an increase in travelers bringing agricultural items from Mexico to decorate altares to honor their departed loved ones and want to remind them not to bring in prohibited citrus and floral arrangement fillers,” said Donald Kusser, director of CBP Laredo field operations.
Marigolds are allowed from Mexico if they are found free of pests and disease after inspection by a CBP agriculture specialist, according to CBP officials.
Federal restrictions apply to all U.S. ports of entry in order to protect U.S. interests.
“Their work is critical in preventing plant pests and diseases not known to exist in the U.S. from establishing themselves and inflicting ecological and economic harm on American agriculture,” Kusser said in a statement.
Citrus fruit also may not be brought by personal importation into the United States. This includes: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, sour oranges and sweet limes, which are commonly put on holiday alters to honor deceased ancestors as part of the Mexican tradition.
These fruits also are not allowed to be brought in by non-commercial personal importation from Mexico: guavas, mangoes, peaches and pomegranates, according to CBP officials.
All agriculture items must be declared at U.S. ports and many are prohibited, like pork.
Anyone caught trying to cross at a U.S. port with these undeclared prohibited items face fines up to $500, and up to $250,000 for illegal commercial importations.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.