Tamale smuggling is—apparently—a crime that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection takes extremely seriously. On November 2, per a press release from the agency, a passenger arriving to LAX from Mexico had 450 pork tamales confiscated when trying to pass through customs. But they didn’t put in a whole lot of effort into concealing their tasty meat dumplings in the first place.
The passenger declared that they were indeed bringing food into the country on their customs sheet, but when asked if the food contained pork, they said no; you know—like a lie. They were assessed a $1,000 civil penalty for “commercial activity with the intent to distribute” and now the image of someone standing on a street corner in a trench coat selling tamales by the kilo is immediately burned into our brain.
“Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases from countries affected by outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Mad Cow and Swine Fever,” says Anne Maricich, CBP Acting Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles. “Every day CBP agriculture specialists prevent the intentional and unintentional introduction of harmful pests and foreign animal diseases into the U.S.”
In what is perhaps the greatest crime of them all, every single tamale was destroyed under CBP supervision. With all due respect to the rule of law, we would have gladly taken the risk shoveled them into our mouths.