Monthly Archives

February 2011

Department of Homeland SecuritySeizures

Notice of Detention of Merchandise by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog February 24, 2011 4 Comments

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a February 22, 2011 60-Day Notice and Request for Comments regarding its use of a "Notice of Detention".  I know, a lot of you are saying to yourselves, "When did CBP starting using Notices of Detention," and my response to you is "That’s a darn good question!"

The law, 19 U.S.C. 1499 and 19 CFR 151.16, allows CBP officers at the border to stop and search persons for merchandise.  If the CBP officer discovers something suspicious, and takes it from you, then it has been "detained".  In exchange, the CBP officer is required to send to the importer or passenger a Notice of Detention form no later than 5 business days from the date of the examination, stating that: (1) the merchandise has been detained, (2) the reason for the detention, and (3) the anticipated length of the detention. 

That all sounds reasonable, but the problem is that the legal requirement is often ignored by CBP.  Often, a Notice of Detention is never issued by CBP to the importer, or is issued late or does not state the reason for the detained merchandise.  I  have seen a few hundred Notices of Detention over the past 21 years as a customs lawyer, but have never seen one that described "the anticipated length of detention."

The Request for Comments asks the public for "ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected."  I have a way to enhance the quality of the CBP Notice of Detention – follow the law and issue it every time, on time, and accurately.   For those who want to respond formally to CBP, click on the link for the address to address comments before April 25, 2011

Department of Homeland SecurityTSA

Does the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Make Us Safer?

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog February 17, 2011 3 Comments

I read a fascinating article entitled "HOMELAND SECURITY HASN’T MADE US SAFER," written by Anne Applebaum, a columnist for the Washington Post and Slate.  It was in the January/February issue of Foreign Policy magazine.  The article criticized the massive spending of time and money by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Ms. Applebaum aimed her barbs right at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with the comment:  "As for the TSA, I am not aware of a single bomber or bomb plot stopped by its time-wasting procedures."

I started thinking about it, and even as a pretty well informed customs and international trade attorney, I could not recall a single incident either.  I have seen the indignities of TSA personnel at the airport force handicapped and elderly people out of their wheelchairs.  I have also been the victim of TSA officers groping around my private areas during one of their random, ‘enhanced pat down’ searches.  For a rollicking good laugh, I encourage you to read the official TSA Blog.  People say the strangest things about their air travel experiences to the TSA from the supposed privacy and safety of their computers.

The TSA submitted a budget request of $8.1 billion for fiscal year 2012. With the billions of dollars spent by both the Bush and Obama Administrations over the past 10 years in the ‘War on Terrorism’ and in support of ‘homeland security,’ the question of whether or not the TSA’s 43,000 trained and certified Transportation Security Officers make us safer through its passenger and baggage screening procedures is still debatable.

I would still like to meet the idiot savant who came up with the 3-1-1 TSA rule about carrying liquids aboard an airplane.  I can’t figure out why we had the technology to send men to the moon in 1969, but in 2011 still have to take our shoes off before walking through a TSA x-ray machine.  I guess the silver lining in all this is that, relatively speaking, the air and ocean cargo screening procedures by the TSA are much better thought out and reasonable.

International Travel

Follow Me To Quickly Clear U.S. Customs as an International Passenger

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog February 12, 2011 0 comments

Have you heard of the Global Entry program operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)?  If you are one of the 100,000 U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are members, then congratulations to you. If you are one of the millions of international travelers who do not like to wait in long lines at U.S. Customs when arriving at an airport in the United States after a long intercontinental flight, I have got a deal for you. 

Global Entry is a voluntary pilot program that streamlines the international arrivals process for pre-approved travelers through use of self-service kiosks located at 20 major U.S. airports.  For good reason, CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin described the Global Entry program as "excellent"  in a December 27, 2010 press release.

Applications to Global Entry first must be submitted online at www.globalentry.gov . It costs only $100 for a five year membership.  I completed the on-line application in about 5 minutes, and was notified by email the next day that I was conditionally approved. Applicants must then complete an interview and fingerprint data collection in person at any of the 20 airport sites.  I am scheduled to be interviewed on February 22, 2011 at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 

Once enrolled in the pilot program, Global Entry members may proceed directly to the kiosks in the international arrivals area upon arrival in the U.S.  At the kiosk, members insert their passport or lawful permanent resident card into a document reader, provide digital fingerprints for comparison with fingerprints on file, answer customs declaration questions on the kiosk’s touch-screen, and then present a transaction receipt to CBP officers before leaving the inspection area.

From what I have heard from fellow frequent international travelers who use Global Entry, and from my friends at CBP, joining Global Entry appears to be the right choice.  I’ll keep you updated on my personal experience on Global Entry.