The U.S. Customs and Border Protection grants some foreign companies the right to less frequent random inspections at the border, and some of those companies seem to be abusing the privilege in a big way.
Yesterday, a vehicle tied to one of the companies enrolled in a CBP program known by the clumsy acronym C-TPAT was caught at the Nogales port of entry with nearly 3,000 of marijuana.
A week ago, border inspectors found another 3,000 pounds of pot
hidden among some squash. The vehicle belonged to a company participating in FAST, the Free and Secure Trade program.
C-TPAT stands for Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, and the companies involved are supposedly "low risk threat for smuggling" of illegal items and terrorist weapons, according to a news release
about the incident. By complying with certain criteria
, CBP allows a FAST or C-TPAT member company to zip through the border with much less fuss.
CBP recently touted the successes of C-TPAT in another news release, noting that the program has received more than 8,000 applications from businesses worldwide.
But if the companies' C-TPAT or FAST security measures can't stop a ton of pot from being smuggled, they might not stop a load of AK-47s and explosives, either.
"Absolutely," that's a risk, says Bonnie Arrellano, a chief CBP officer and agency spokeswoman. "Obviosly, it opens the door to that."
In her news release, Arrellano writes that "trust was betrayed" when the big rig tried to pass into the United States with its load. Nobody's being accused of anything yet. The company's C-TPAT privileges have only been suspended until an investigation is completed.
Arrellano says she's not sure how many times C-TPAT or FAST vehicles get caught with illegal loads.
But with the lax inspections involved in those programs, it's a safe bet that whatever the amount of seized contraband, it's nothing compared to the actual amount of stuff the participants are smuggling.