WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators 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 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“The Department of Homeland Security must use every tool at its disposal to deter drug trafficking and seize toxic substances before they can devastate our communities,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill, that has now advanced in the Senate, will ensure our federal government can better combat the opioid epidemic by reducing the supply of dangerous drugs like fentanyl in our country.”
“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 drug epidemic in the United States has reached an unprecedented level, with overdose deaths climbing to their highest levels—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 bill also ensures that DHS is utilizing available resources to develop additional ways to test for fentanyl and other illicit drugs. 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 surveil, track, monitor, or transmit information about the location and movement of federal, state, or Tribal law enforcement officials or those who destroy border technology, such as sensors and cameras in order to smuggle drugs into the United States.