My Visit to the U.S.-Mexico Border: Assessing Efforts to Stop Illicit Drug Trafficking

As we painfully know in New Hampshire, the fentanyl, heroin, and opioid crisis is taking a massive toll on our people and our communities.

While law enforcement officers are the first to say that we can’t arrest our way out of this crisis, as we work to build up our treatment, recovery, and prevention infrastructure, we must also continue to attack the supply side of this epidemic by boosting drug interdiction efforts.

The trafficking of drugs like fentanyl by cartels in Mexico is exacerbating this crisis. Fentanyl is the number one killer in this epidemic, contributing to 76 percent of overdose deaths in New Hampshire in 2017.

That is why last week, I traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to assess interdiction efforts that are underway to detect, intercept, and halt the flow of fentanyl being smuggled across our southern border and distributed to communities in New Hampshire and across the country.

Over the course of the trip, I met with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents on the ground to discuss how Congress can better support their efforts to detect, intercept, and halt the trafficking of fentanyl and other illicit substances. I also went to Mexico City to meet with Mexican officials and build upon existing partnerships to combat the opioid epidemic.

On Tuesday, I received a number of briefings at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, where I heard from Border Patrol about the different conventional and unconventional tactics drug cartels are using to smuggle illicit drugs across the border and how Border Patrol is working to disrupt these efforts.

I also visited the Juarez-El Paso border checkpoint and talked with Customs and Border Protection agents about how they inspect inbound traffic from Juarez, Mexico.

Shortly before we arrived, agents seized a large amount of illicit substances from a vehicle.

On Wednesday, I was in McAllen, Texas, where I was briefed on the technology that CBP agents use to detect fentanyl at one of the busiest border crossings in the country. I cosponsored the INTERDICT Act, which the President has signed into law, to expand and enhance the technology CBP has to detect fentanyl. This technology is still in short supply, and while the INTERDICT Act will help, more still needs to be done.

I also appreciated the opportunity to meet with officials in Mexico City to discuss the importance of strengthening our partnerships to combat drug trafficking and to protect national security.

There are a number of key steps we must take to build upon existing partnerships with Mexico, including supporting efforts to expand the Mexican federal police force by helping train new officers, and getting the new Mexican Administration up to speed quickly on ongoing efforts to counter fentanyl and drug trafficking after the Mexican elections this year.

As we continue to combat the opioid epidemic, we need a comprehensive approach focused on strengthening treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts.

This includes working to stop the flow of illicit drugs across our southern border. Our brave law enforcement officers and public safety officials are on the front lines of this crisis — and I will keep working to ensure that they have the support they need as part of our comprehensive efforts to turn the tide, and ultimately reverse, this devastating crisis.

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