The bipartisan efforts of Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Senator Rob Portman and others in Congress paid off when President Trump signed into law the Interdict act, which authorizes $9 million in federal funds for Customs and Border Protection agents.
The act is designed to focus on finding shipments of the dangerous opioid fentanyl as it is smuggled across the border and shipped through U.S. Mail services. Drug overdose is America’s leading cause of death.
The primary country of origin for this synthetic drug is China, where illegal laboratories manufacture the drug and ship it around the world. Senator Brown is particularly interested in this problem because Ohio now has the second highest drug overdose death rate in the country, with a 24 percent increase over last year.
Fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and is added to street drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The drug dogs used by law enforcement can die from just the scent of the drug when they come into contact with it. The fentanyl attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain tightly and makes reviving an overdosed user more difficult.
On December 9, 2017, Border Patrol agents seized over $1 million of fentanyl. The driver and passenger, two men from Mexico, were detained at a Border Patrol station in Laredo, Texas.
A few days later one of the largest seizures of the drug, nearly 80 pounds, was seized from a Tijuana man named Flavio Davalos attempting to smuggle the drug across the border in San Diego, California. This is up from the earlier seizure of 66 pounds at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in a shipment at the U.S. and Mexico border.
The Customs and Border Protection agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport search thousands of packages and are well trained at spotting shipments coming into the United States. Frank Russo, port director said, “It’s mainly coming from China and Hong Kong, destined for every part of the United States.” Russo’s officers have seized approximately 40% of the fentanyl from the JFK facility, where 60% of the U.S. international mail is sorted.
The bill is focused on providing federal agents with screening devices and other tools used to detect the deadly drug before it enters the black market. The president warned that drug traffickers are using our own postal service and that it is killing our people. The legislation will pay for new chemical screening devices and other laboratory equipment and personnel. President Trump has made fighting the opioid epidemic a key fight of his administration.
The president also remarked that it feels like it should be a giant step, but that it probably won’t be. He went on to say that he thinks he knows the answer to America’s drug problem. He then added that he was “not sure the country is ready for it yet.” Many have speculated about what the President meant by this statement.
Some ask if the border wall is what he meant by his mysterious statement, but President Trump has been clear that the American people are definitely ready to build the wall. While it is uncertain that the drug epidemic has any one single answer, for the president it may simply be a return to the conservative ideals and a focus on America first.
With that being said, his solution might be more pragmatically aimed at the manufacturers and labs. A protectionist or an isolationist stance would see the problem as it lies in the mind-boggling amount of goods that enter the United States from China every day. If we could stem the influx of useless products and cut off the supply that enters from around the world every day, it would greatly decrease the number of packages that need searching and would allow agents to focus and detect more that enters what would then be a small trickle of drugs entering the country.