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Monday, April 22nd, 2024

U.S. Sen. Peters leads collective call to bolster funding for border security, drug detection

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Five senators, led by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), are urging Senate leadership to support additional funding for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts to boost security at U.S. ports of entry and improve its ability to detect and seize drugs.

Peters, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was joined by U.S. Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

“Supporting CBP’s responsibility to safeguard our borders while securely and efficiently facilitating trade and travel also requires providing support to those that risk their lives to intercept illicit substances and addressing staffing shortages at ports of entry,” the senators wrote. “Congress has an opportunity to reaffirm its resolution to take on the overdose and addiction epidemic by, among other things, investing in efforts that will reduce the supply of illicit substances in the United States. This is an urgent priority and our funding should reflect our commitment to taking a bold approach to reducing overdoses and saving lives.”

Specifically, the lawmakers wanted more power invested in DHS to investigate and counter transnational drug trafficking organizations, reverse staffing shortages for Customers and Border Protection officers and fund the development of more non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems. In the latter case, they argued that such systems would allow for better screening of vehicles and the cargo they carry while guaranteeing safe and secure travel and trade at ports of entry nationwide.

Their main concern is the ongoing opioid epidemic fueled by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. In their letter, the lawmakers pointed to a rising associated death toll from overdoses, something they noted can only be remedied through a comprehensive strategy.

They requested such considerations be factored into finalizations of the FY 2022 DHS Appropriations bill. In its FY21 report, CBP noted that a plan to be able to scan all arriving vehicles within six years would require additional funding to support larger-scale NII systems. Further, the senators added that there is a shortage of nearly 800 CBP officers nationwide.

“Finally, as we improve CBP’s ability to scan vehicles entering the United States and interdict illegal drugs, we must proportionately increase Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) capacity to take on resulting investigations. HSI is responsible for investigating and going after the transnational criminal organizations trafficking drugs into the country, which is critical to curbing the supply. Therefore, we must properly resource HSI to ensure that it is ready to investigate higher numbers of interdictions that will follow higher rates of scanning.”

For the senators, they labeled this an urgent priority.