Committee Passes Peters & Hawley Bipartisan Bill to Bolster DHS Efforts to Detect and Seize Illicit Drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to ensure that the Department of the Homeland Security (DHS) is efficiently using existing resources and expanding available tools to stop the flow of deadly and illicit drugs like fentanyl into our nation has advanced in the Senate. The bill will help ensure that DHS has the data, information, and resources needed to counter drug trafficking. The legislation was approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“The federal government must work to reduce the supply of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs that continue to take lives,” said Senator Peters. “By strengthening the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to fight back against traffickers and seize drugs, this bipartisan bill will help reduce overdoses and stop these deadly substances from wreaking havoc on our communities.”

“Illicit drugs such as fentanyl are devastating communities and families across the country, including those in Missouri,” said Senator Hawley. “In order to crack down on drug cartels and criminals operating across our southern border, we need to give the Department of Homeland Security the right tools and resources to root out drug smuggling and improve interdiction efforts. I’m proud to work with Chairman Peters on bipartisan solutions to address the ongoing opioid crisis.”

The opioid epidemic in the United States has reached an unprecedented level, with overdose deaths climbing to their highest level – over 100,000 deaths within the 12-month period ending in April 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This crisis has been exacerbated by the increase of synthetic opioids, including illicitly manufactured fentanyl. DHS plays an important role in disrupting and stopping these dangerous drugs from crossing our borders, and in dismantling the transnational criminal organizations that smuggle these drugs and profit from this crisis. This bill provides solutions to assist DHS with its counterdrug mission while also holding DHS accountable for assessing and improving their efforts. The bill aligns with the Administration’s priorities outlined in the National Drug Control Strategy, particularly the goal of reducing the supply of illicit drugs.

The Enhancing DHS Drug Seizures Act requires DHS to develop a plan to strengthen public-private partnerships with the shipping, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. These partnerships will assist DHS with early detection and interdiction of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals. The legislation requires DHS to study how they can improve efforts to collect and analyze data on illegal drug seizures. Better data will ensure that DHS has the information necessary for targeting and intelligence activities. Finally, the bill enhances penalties for the drug traffickers who knowingly and willfully destroy border technology, such as sensors and cameras in order to smuggle drugs into the United States.