Mayorkas Says Additional Funding Will Stem the Flow of Fentanyl Into US

Austin Alonzo
By Austin Alonzo
November 9, 2023Border Security

A supplemental funding request from the Biden administration could give the Department of Homeland Security an additional $1.3 billion to fight the flow of fentanyl into the United States, according to the head of the department.

On Nov. 8, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations about a multibillion-dollar supplemental funding request filed by President Joe Biden for border security in October. He said the money would equip DHS with the people and tools it needs to prevent cartels from moving fentanyl through U.S. ports of entry.

Over the past two years, DHS agents seized more fentanyl than they had in the previous five years combined. Mr. Mayorkas testified the additional funding would be used to hire new staff aimed at drug interdiction and to enhance the agency’s existing investigative capabilities.

Specifically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would hire 1,000 new officers for ports of entry and make a “significant investment”—about $850 million—in so-called nonintrusive inspection equipment to scan vehicles for narcotics and paraphernalia. Moreover, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) could enhance domestic and international counter-fentanyl activities.

Already in 2023, according to the DHS secretary, the agency stepped up its interception of fentanyl, fentanyl precursors, and contraband such as pill presses. In its fiscal year 2023, HSI made more than 5,000 fentanyl-related arrests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin. It is a significant contributor to drug overdoses in the United States.

Due to its potency, even small amounts of the drug can cause an overdose. More than 150 Americans die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to CDC data.

Senator Questions Mayorkas’ Strategy

Drug overdoses, Mr. Mayorkas said, are a leading cause of preventable death in the United States and are only becoming more common due to the “incredibly cheap, incredibly potent opioid smuggled into our country by cartels primarily via cars and trucks driven by American citizens.”

New imaging technology purchased through the supplemental funding request would enable DHS to inspect all vehicles that enter the country. The money would deploy more than 100 inspection machines across so-called hot spots.

More than 90 percent of fentanyl coming into America comes through an overland port of entry, Mr. Mayorkas said, via passenger and commercial vehicles.

“Nonintrusive inspection technology … is a remarkably efficient force multiplier in enabling us to detect the ingenious ways that fentanyl is sought to be smuggled through those vehicles,” Mr. Mayorkas said in response to a question from Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)

The DHS secretary said imaging technology will allow agents to focus their priorities elsewhere and would amount to an “extraordinary advancement of our mission.”

After the testimony, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the vice chair of the appropriations committee, cast doubt on the concept of technology solving the fentanyl problem. The DHS, she said, isn’t accounting for drugs smuggled in by illegal immigrants who were not intercepted and via drones flown by drug traffickers.

“I think its highly misleading to say, ‘All we’ve got to do to stop fentanyl is to have new technology,’” Ms. Collins said.

Furthermore, she said the DHS can’t ignore the role Mexico and China play in the fentanyl crisis.

“The precursors [and] the pill pressers are coming from China to the Mexican cartels,” Ms. Collins said. “To say that this is mainly Americans that are smuggling it, that 90 percent comes in through ports of entry, ignores very important factors that paint a different, or at least fuller, picture.”

From The Epoch Times

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