The Enhancing DHS Drug Seizures Act (S.1464) advanced to the Senate floor last week, after approval from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is chaired its author, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).
Together with co-author U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Peters created a bill that seeks to guarantee the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the data, information and resources needed to counter drug trafficking and counteract the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. It would require the department to create a plan for strengthening public-private partnerships related to the shipping, chemical and pharmaceutical industries to enhance early detection and interdiction efforts and mandates a study on how DHS could improve data collection and analysis efforts related to illegal drug seizures.
“The federal government must work to reduce the supply of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs that continue to take lives,” Peters said. “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.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths reached a record high over the 12-month period ending in April 2021, with more than 100,000 added to the body count. The spread of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, have played a significant role in this, and the Biden administration previously launched a National Drug Control Strategy in an effort to crackdown on these drug supplies.
“Illicit drugs such as fentanyl are devastating communities and families across the country, including those in Missouri,” Hawley said. “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.”
While better data could help targeting and intelligence activities at DHS, the Enhancing DHS Drug Seizures Act also increases penalties for those caught by these activities. Drug traffickers who knowingly and willfully destroy border technology such as sensors and cameras, in order to smuggle drugs into the U.S., could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to five years for offenses.