Schumer wants hi-tech tools to help stop drugs at border
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is throwing his support behind a bipartisan Senate bill that seeks to provide border patrol agents with hi-tech tools to help stop the flow of illicit fentanyl drugs into the country.
Schumer (D-NY) is launching a major push to win passage for the “International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act,” also known as the INTERDICT Act, a bill that would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents high-tech tools and other resources to improve detection capabilities.
Among its provisions, the bill would authorize the appropriation of $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities and personnel for support during all operational hours and ensure that scientists would be on hand to examine the confiscated contraband.
The legislation would also help agents seize illicit fentanyl being shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers, according to Schumer.
“These deadly substances are being delivered to our homes, being sold on our streets and destroying our families. We know how they get here and where they come from, now we need to give CBP the resources to stop this flood and help save lives,” Schumer said in a statement.
Schumer said the legislation would be an important step in the fight against fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is said to be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin.
Fentanyl has quickly swept into New York City and is wreaking havoc and destroying families, he said. In fiscal year 2015, 753 people died in New York City of opioid-related overdoses, according to the Mayor’s Management Report, a document issued by the Mayor’s Office of Operations.
Schumer said that the INTERDICT Act would help choke off the source of fentanyl. Most of the fentanyl being sold on the street is illicitly manufactured, he noted.
While distributors in China are the principal source of the chemicals used to manufacture the drug, Mexico is the prime source for the fentanyl that is smuggled into the U.S., Schumer said.
Fentanyl suppliers often mislabel shipments or conceal them inside legitimate goods in order to avoid CBP detection at the border, according to law enforcement officials.
The labs that make synthetic opioids know that fentanyl is lucrative for dealers, who can sell fentanyl purchased from a Chinese drug laboratory for $1.5 million on the street.
U.S. Sens. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) introduced the INTERDICT Act in March.
Schumer’s push is coming in the wake of warnings from law enforcement officials about new and more deadly varieties of fentanyl being found in the U.S.
The legislation is even more important now, considering a move by the Trump administration plans to strip the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) of much of its funding, according to Schumer, who denounced the White House plan.
“While candidate Trump pledged to ‘take care’ of Americans struggling with addiction and spend the money to succeed, his proposal to eliminate funding for programs, such as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities, which are instrumental in aiding local enforcement drug trafficking in many communities in New York, at the southern border and elsewhere, would effectively kick Americans seeking treatment to the curb and make our communities less safe,” Schumer stated.
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