U.S. Senator Katie Britt, R-Ala., Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, led a hearing on transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and related drug and human trafficking with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the subcommittee’s chairman.
Senator Britt highlighted the ongoing crisis that has ensued because of the massive influx of fentanyl into the United States and how this lethal drug has impacted every state in the nation. In Alabama alone, there was a 16 percent increase in overdose-related deaths between 2021 and 2022, and law enforcement in Birmingham seized enough fentanyl last year to kill every single Alabamian.
“Fentanyl is devastating communities all across this great country. It’s now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 45. More than 150 people die each day from an overdose related to fentanyl. At the current rate, more Americans will die in the next decade from fentanyl than combat deaths in all the wars since America’s founding. Yet most of the fentanyl killing Americans is coming from abroad, starting as precursor chemicals in China before being turned into the deadly drug by Mexican cartels, obtained from internet sources and then shipped via mail or smuggled across the border into the United States,” Senator Britt said in her opening statement.
Senator Britt also noted that President Biden’s proposed budget includes a 1 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) base budget and does not include adequate additional resources for DHS to be able to address the fentanyl crisis and actively stop the flow of this dangerous narcotic into the country.
“President Biden’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024 for DHS lacks a coherent strategy and requests woefully insufficient resources or manpower for DHS to effectively fight this fight, particularly looking at the amount of dangerous drugs entering the country on a daily basis,” Senator Britt stated.
In the first six months of Fiscal Year 2023, the CBP’s Office of Field Operations has already interdicted more fentanyl than the entire previous year. However, in light of these staggering numbers, the Biden Administration has only proposed minimal changes to DHS’ ongoing efforts to combat drug trafficking.
“President Biden’s budget proposal only requests to add 150 new officers to the already overworked, thinly-stretched 25,000 officers who staff ports of entry,” Senator Britt noted.
Senator Britt also emphasized how the Administration’s proposed budget for DHS fails to account for the expiration of Title 42 on May 11, 2023, and how this policy change will drastically impact the current situation at the border.
“The reality is that President Biden knew this when he formulated his budget proposal for FY 2024. His Administration notified Congress on January 26 that the Public Health Emergency and Title 42 usage would end on May 11. Yet, on March 9, the President released a budget request that proposes cutting the Department of Homeland Security’s base budget by 1 percent. That budget proposal inadequately funds efforts to combat fentanyl, secure the border, and strongly enforce our nation’s existing immigration laws. This is deeply irresponsible, and it’s a direct disservice to the incredible men and women on the ground working every day to protect and serve,” Senator Britt said.
During questioning, Senator Britt asked about the specific ways in which law enforcement has seen fentanyl travel from origin points in China, through cartels in Mexico, and ultimately, end up in the hands of American consumers.
Senator Britt has made border security and the safety of American children, families, and communities a top focus during her first few months in office, including three visits to the border. She introduced a robust package of four pieces of legislation and has already cosponsored an additional eight bills related to the topic, including Senator Marsha Blackburn’s, R-Tenn., Stop Taxpayer Funding of Traffickers Act; Senator Chuck Grassley’s, R-Iowa, Immigration Parole Reform Act of 2023 and Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act; Senator Ted Budd’s, R-N.C., Build the Wall Now Act; Senator Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., No Coyote Cash Act and Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act; Senator Mike Lee’s, R-Utah, Stopping Border Surges Act; and Senator Tommy Tuberville’s, R-Ala., Border Safety and Security Act.
Video of Senator Britt’s opening statement can be found here.