WASHINGTON (WJHL) — Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and a handful of other Democrats are calling on President Joe Biden to increase security at the southern border to stop the flow of illegal drugs like fentanyl.
The senators are specifically pushing for additional Border Patrol agents and increased processing and screening capacity at ports of entry. They also want non-invasive inspection technology to be deployed.
According to Warner’s office, their call comes amid increasing overdose rates in Virginia and other states. Data shows many drugs are being smuggled through U.S. ports of entry, with border agents finding pills in seat cushions, car batteries, metal walkers and bicycle frames, Warner’s office said.
“We have long supported increasing funding for comprehensive measures to enhance border enforcement, management, and security,” the senators wrote in a letter to the president. “The situation at our border is complex, and it will take continued leadership and funding to stem the flow of illicit drugs like fentanyl, smuggling, and transnational criminal organizations that operate along our border.”
The letter was signed by Warner and Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).
The full letter is below:
Dear President Biden:
As you consider the critical funding needs of our Nation, we urge you to prioritize additional funding, resources, and innovative strategies to strengthen the security of our southwest border and address the multiple, overlapping challenges there. We have long supported increasing funding for comprehensive measures to enhance border enforcement, management, and security. The situation at our border is complex, and it will take continued leadership and funding to stem the flow of illicit drugs like fentanyl, smuggling, and transnational criminal organizations that operate along our border.
Overdose deaths, particularly among young people, are increasing across our Nation. In total, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 112,000 people died from a drug overdose between May 2022 and May 2023, with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids causing the vast majority of overdoses. Furthermore, according to a new analysis reported in September 2023, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, and Virginia were among the 37 states in which accidental drug overdoses were the largest cause of death for people under 40-years-old in 2022. In Montana, accidental overdoses of young people under 40 increased by 121% from 2018 to 2022.
The increasing rates of overdose deaths are clearly being driven, in part, by fentanyl trafficking across our border. From FY 2019 to FY 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizures of fentanyl nearly tripled. So far in FY 2023, CBP has already seized over 25,000 pounds of fentanyl. In March, it was reported that CBP seized more than 21 million fentanyl tablets in the Nogales, AZ port of entry over the prior five months—more than the number of tablets seized during the entire previous year. Highlighting the complex situation that CBP must navigate when seizing fentanyl, officials have indicated that individuals are smuggling pills inside seat cushions, car batteries, metal walkers, and even hollowed-out bicycle frames. Furthermore, CBP data has shown that drugs are overwhelmingly being smuggled through U.S. ports of entry—particularly in Arizona and California—and we must do more to ensure that our CBP Officers have the funding, tools, and technology necessary to be able to stop this surge of fentanyl into our country.
Strengthening our southwest border is not only vital to our national security, but also our public health. To achieve this, we must prioritize additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security for its critical border security operations, including funding construction and infrastructure improvements at our ports of entry. We also urge you to invest funding to hire additional CBP Officers, increase processing and screening capacity at ports of entry along the border, engage in a wide range of counter-drug activities, and acquire additional non-intrusive inspection technology to substantially increase the number of passenger cars and cargo that are scanned at the border. This border security technology will provide CBP Officers with more tools to support their mission and more frequently interdict fentanyl and other illicit drugs. These types of technology and resources will provide CBP with enhanced capabilities to detect the transport of illicit drugs, contraband, invasive species, and other dangers in inbound and outbound cargo at parts of entry.
For years, we have voted to enact additional funding to address the complex challenges at our southwest border by focusing on smart security measures and enhanced technology. We continue to support strong investments in border security measures that will keep our Nation safer and increase the capacity, personnel, and technology that are available to enhance the security of our border. Thank you for your attention to our request and these critical funding needs.Senators’ letter to President Joe Biden