FIRST ON FOX: Legislation introduced Friday by Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., would expand the Department of Homeland Security’s powers to conduct counternarcotics operations against cartels pushing fentanyl across the U.S. southern border while the country he is still plagued by an opiate crisis.
The Homeland Security Fentanyl Enforcement Act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide DHS Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents with independent authority to enforce US drug laws.
While HSI, which is part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has primary responsibility for investigating transnational crime, its agents must rely on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) when it comes to drug crimes. .
The invoice thus, it would provide full enforcement authority under Title 21, allowing HSI to investigate drug crimes, including the smuggling of fentanyl across the US southern border.
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The United States is facing a surge in deaths attributable to illicit fentanyl, which is primarily manufactured in Mexico with Chinese precursors and then smuggled across the southern land border through drug cartels. The synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is often added to other drugs, meaning users often don’t know they’re taking it.
Of the more than 108,000 overdose deaths last year, more than 80,000 were related to fentanyl, authorities say. The Drug Enforcement Administration has previously warned that the drug is killing Americans at an “unprecedented rate.”
“Criminal cartels are shipping fentanyl and other deadly drugs across our border at an unprecedented rate. HSI is on the front lines in the fight against cartels, but they lack the independent legal authority to enforce drug crimes and combat drug trafficking. It’s absurd, Higgins said in a statement.
“We must not allow bureaucracy to restrict our efforts to combat criminal cartels, which is why I am introducing our bill to give HSI officers the full authority of Title 21. Our legislation would add thousands of highly trained federal law enforcement officers. trained to combat drug trafficking. … at no cost to American taxpayers. This is a common sense bill that helps protect America and keeps deadly drugs out of our communities.”
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Cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Brian Babin, R-Texas, Mike Carey, R-Ohio, Mayra Flores, R-Texas, Mary Miller, R-Ill., Marianne Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and Chris Smith. , RN.J.
Higgins’ office said the bill was developed in consultation with frontline law enforcement at DHS and noted that it would cost the taxpayer nothing as it would simply expand existing authorities.
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The bill is the latest for lawmakers and officials to crack down on the fentanyl crisis. Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of 18 state attorneys general called on President Biden to take “immediate and decisive action” to declare fentanyl a weapon of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, the White House has been highlighting its own efforts to reduce fentanyl deaths in the United States and has said the 200% increase in seizures at the southern border in July is a sign that his anti-smuggling efforts are working.