Funding is needed to curb fentanyl smuggling at ports of entry, administration officials said.
WASHINGTON — Biden administration officials at a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday over the deadly illegal drug fentanyl said they need more money to improve screening technology at ports of entry on the southern border.
They also said the US should continue to put pressure on China over its role in selling chemicals used to make fentanyl, a highly addictive, man-made opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.
The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration noted that the two cartels are responsible for most of the fentanyl drugs, not only in the US, but throughout the world.
And a State Department official clarified that China is the main supplier of the chemicals needed to make fentanyl, and that China has shown “limited willingness to be involved” in the matter.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the National Drug Control Policy Office, said fentanyl is found not only in opioids, but in “every supply of drugs,” from cocaine to methamphetamine and counterfeit fentanyl-laced Adderall prescription pills.
Gupta said the president’s drug budget, which will be sent to Congress, will require funds to check vehicles on the southern border, although he did not give a figure.
Relations with China are ‘difficult’
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and senior Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho discussed whether sanctions or visa restrictions should be imposed on China to force that country to stop selling chemicals. cartels in Mexico that manufacture fentanyl-laced drugs and smuggle them into the US
Menendez said that if China fails to cooperate in good faith with the US in actions such as sharing information about fentanyl trafficking, then “the United States will have no choice but to take unilateral steps by expanding sanctions… to protect the American people. ”
Relations between China and the US are complex, said Todd Robinson, assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Adding to the tension, in the Feb. 4 incident, China claimed that a high-altitude balloon shot down by the military six miles off the South Carolina coast at 60,000 feet was collecting weather data. The Pentagon said it was a reconnaissance balloon.
Robinson said the Mexican government was more willing than China to work with the US government to combat fentanyl trafficking and that cooperation with Mexico was needed, but Menendez said he was skeptical.
Robinson added that a small proportion of the chemicals used to make fentanyl also come from India, and added that the Indian government has agreed to work with the US and set up a Drug Enforcement Task Force to combat international drug trafficking.
Challenge of China
Rish and Republican Senator Bill Hagerty of Tennessee expressed disappointment that the Biden administration did not explicitly mention China and its role in the fentanyl crisis.
Risch noted that the minutes of the meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November did not mention fentanyl.
However, most of the publicly released talks between the President and other world leaders do not contain details.
Rish asked Robinson if Biden raised the issue of chemicals being sold from China and used to manufacture fentanyl in Mexico.
“We’ve had very limited engagement with China on this issue,” Robinson said, adding that he doesn’t know if Biden raised the issue with the Chinese president.
“Relations with China are complicated. We have a number of issues to discuss with them,” Robinson said.
Ports of Entry
Ann Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration at the Department of Justice, said two major drug cartels, the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, were responsible for all fentanyl.
She said all the fentanyl seized by the DEA passed through two U.S. Customs and Border Protection entry points in California and two ports of entry in Arizona.
Last year, CBP seized over 14,000 pounds of fentanyl.
Senator Pete Ricketts, of Nebraska, told Gupta, “I can tell you from my experience as governor that in the last two years of my administration, we have seen fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine double, triple, quintuple. because our state patrol confiscated it as it passed through our state.”
Gupta said that most of the drugs seized at entry points are detected using technology to scan private cars and trailers, but officials lack scanners.
“We are still not scanning this traffic enough,” he said. “I want every port of entry to have this technology.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, also discussed the role of tech companies in selling fentanyl through social media platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok and asked how these private companies are responsible for the crisis.
Milgram said that fentanyl is being sold through social media, calling it a “drug superhighway”, and that her agency has told these social media companies that people are getting fentanyl through those platforms.
“We asked them to do more,” she said. “We haven’t seen them do more.”
She said that social media has allowed drug dealers to have a large customer base, and for these traffickers, “if a user dies, it’s a cost of doing business.” Through social media, she says, they have access to millions of other users.
“Today, the cartels understand that if someone dies from their lethal fentanyl, that there are 100 million other users on Snapchat to sell their drugs to, on Facebook and Instagram there are over 150 million American users to whom they can sell their drugs. drugs,” she said.
Nebraska Examiner staff contributed to this report.
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