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‘Know Before You Go,’ officials advise holiday travelers to Mexico

Those heading to Mexico for the holidays can expect longer waits at the border due to stepped up inspections, and federal officials say travelers can make things easier by having legal documents ready and accurately completing customs declarations.

“Our job is to prevent threats from coming in here,” said Brian Levin, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman. “Be aware of the fact you are going to see an increase of people in line.”

Announcing its annual “Know Before You Go” campaign, the agency noted that wait times will be longer this season because of stepped up efforts to curb the flow of drugs, drug money, illegal immigrants and produce that can contain pests.

Traffic through ports of entry rises around the holidays as people travel to and from Mexico to see relatives or go shopping. Nogales, the state’s busiest port with around 30 million people passing through per year, sees around a 10 percent spike, Levin said.

The No. 1 violation in Nogales is travelers failing to declare produce and plants in customs declaration forms or in person, Levin said. The offense carries up to a $300 fine.

“We are very concerned of the introduction of pests or disease into our food supply and forestry industry,” Levin said. “These are things that are not very big, like fruit flies, but they can have a huge effect on our economy.”

Having travel documents and customs declarations ready for officials reduces the chance that a vehicle will be inspected and helps make the wait shorter for everyone, Levin said. Ninety-seven percent of vehicle searches turn up nothing, he added.

“We’re looking for that small percentage of people who are trying to smuggle themselves, other people or contraband in,” Levin said.

The Customs and Border Protection Web site has details about the “Know Before You Go” campaign as well updated wait times at ports of entry.

“The faster we can process you, the faster you’re out of there,” said Detlef Goellner, supervisor of the border port in Lukeville.

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