Border Wall Won’t Stem the Tide of Opioid Trafficking

In case you missed it, an Axios article released this week outlined why a border wall isn’t the best solution to stem the tide of opioids flowing into the United States illegally. The article pointed instead to bipartisan solutions to increase technology and resources to scan for opioids at the border, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) INTERDICT Act, which was signed into law last year.  

Building a wall wouldn't do much to stop opioid smuggling through legal ports of entry, but there's a more bipartisan effort under way to improve interdiction capacity at the border,” notes Axios reporter Caitlin Owens. 

Owens continues,Most opioids are seized at legal ports of entry, suggesting that, at the very least, a border wall alone won't stop drug traffickers supplying the nation's heroin and fentanyl.”

Last year, Brown’s INTERDICT Act, which provide Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) with new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for 24x7 lab support to scan for Fentanyl was signed into law. Brown’s bill provides more portable chemical screening devices at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) laboratories. The bill also provides CBP with more resources, personnel, and facilities — including scientists available during all operational hours — to interpret screening test results from the field. 

While Brown is pushing for legislation to expand this technology to local law enforcement, President Trump’s shutdown is making it harder for CBP agents and law enforcement to detect fentanyl coming into the country.

The Axios article can be found here and below:

 

AXIOS: THE BORDER'S DEADLIEST THREAT: OPIOIDS

Caitlin Owens

January 7, 2019 

As the nation's opioid crisis rages on, the majority of the two biggest killers — heroin and fentanyl — illegally enter the U.S. from other countries, enmeshing the opioid epidemic with the highly politicized fight over border security.

Between the lines: Building a wall wouldn't do much to stop opioid smuggling through legal ports of entry, but there's a more bipartisan effort under way to improve interdiction capacity at the border.

The big picture: Most heroin seized in the U.S. comes from Mexico, according to a 2018 Drug Enforcement Administration report.

  • While fentanyl exported from China is more pure than Mexican fentanyl, the U.S. seizes higher quantities of Mexican fentanyl. There's also evidence that Mexican traffickers order fentanyl from China and smuggle it into the U.S. themselves.
  • Some opioids – especially fentanyl from China – come into the U.S. through the international mail system, but most drug smuggling attempts occur at and between southwest entry points.

Most opioids are seized at legal ports of entry, suggesting that, at the very least, a border wall alone won't stop drug traffickers supplying the nation's heroin and fentanyl.

  • "It helps, but it’s not a complete answer by any means," Republican Sen. John Cornyn said last month. “People go over walls, under walls, through walls. That’s why really it needs to be technology, infrastructure and personnel" as well.
  • “115% more fentanyl was seized at the border in the points of entry...from ’17 to ’18," said GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, chair of the subcommittee responsible for Department of Homeland Security funding. "So part of border security are the sensors and the technologies to be able to detect."

Democrats also support better anti-drug technology at the border, while opposing a wall.

  • "A wall won’t stop fentanyl but scanning devices and more customs officers will," Democratic Whip Dick Durbin tweeted.

Where it stands: The Senate's Homeland Security spending bill included funding to enhance drug detection technologies, modernize Customs and Border Patrol infrastructure and expand the number of agents dedicated to opioid trafficking enforcement.

Bonus: Marijuana seizures occur more often between ports of entry, and smugglers have come up with very creative ways to get drugs across the border.

  • These include launching marijuana bundles with cannons, moving vehicles over border fences using ramps or cranes, flying drones and digging tunnels, a Homeland Security Investigations official testified in May.

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