Budzinski Calls for Funding to Stop Flow of Illicit Fentanyl and Secure the Southern Border

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski (IL-13) joined Congressman Gabe Vasquez (NM-02) and colleagues on the New Democrat Coalition in a call for increased federal funding to address the flow of deadly, illicit fentanyl that is impacting nearly every American community and secure our nation’s southern border. Budzinski is the Freshman Leadership Representative for the coalition. 

While House Republican Leadership pushes budget cuts to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement, non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief and other critical programs, Budzinski is calling for targeted investments in border and port security that give law enforcement the tools they need to stem the flow of illicit fentanyl. This includes hiring an additional 500 CBP Officers, expanding the Department of Homeland Security’s Fentanyl Abatement Response Team, creating additional Transnational Criminal Investigative Units and investing in resources to protect frontline officers as well as inspection technology to prevent smuggling.

“Each of these investments would lead to less illicit fentanyl in our communities and save American lives. As members of Congress, we cannot afford to play politics with the health and safety of those we represent,” wrote the Members.“We urge you to reject the proposed cuts to the Department of Homeland Security and fund these programs at the appropriate level so that fewer American families will be subjected to the pain caused by illicit fentanyl.”

Text of the full letter can be found here and below: 

Dear Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member DeLauro,

We write to you today to request additional federal funding to address one of the most critical challenges facing our nation: stemming the flow of deadly illicit fentanyl into our country and maintaining a secure southern border. We believe Congress ought to consider an emergency supplemental appropriations bill and increased funding for Fiscal Year 2024 for this urgent priority.

Deaths related to the use of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have risen by nearly 200% in the past decade, affecting nearly every American community in the process. Families across the country have suffered incalculable losses at the hands of these extremely potent narcotics. As the elected representatives of these families and communities, it is our duty to do all we can to disrupt the distribution of illicit fentanyl.

The vast majority of illicit fentanyl is trafficked by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) based in Mexico at ports of entry along our southern border. Therefore, making critical investments in border security through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is essential to limiting the prevalence of illicit fentanyl in American communities. However, the partisan Republican budget proposal that recently passed the House forgoes these critical investments in favor of steep budgetary cuts. 

According to DHS, this proposal would reduce Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement staffing by up to 2,400 agents and harm the department’s ability to prevent illicit fentanyl from entering the country. At a time when CBP seizures of illicit substances doubled between FY21 and FY22 and quadrupled between FY19 and FY22, reducing enforcement is an unacceptable outcome that would put our constituents at even higher risk.

As an alternative to the harmful cuts put forward by the majority, we propose a strategy of making critical and targeted investments that give law enforcement the tools to prevent illicit fentanyl from ever reaching American communities. This includes building on the $86.48 billion FY23 DHS appropriation that funded responsible border technology, inspections at ports of entry, and additional staffing initiatives. The FY23 appropriation led to record highs of illicit fentanyl seized at the southern border. Similarly, the most recent appropriation featured dedicated funding to address TCO weapons smuggling from the U.S. into Mexico, a principal source of funding for their illicit fentanyl trafficking operations. These investments made huge strides in addressing the challenges posed by illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances. It is paramount that appropriators bolster these programs to capitalize on their effectiveness.

Beyond protecting and adding to the FY23 funding, we propose additional investments that will further degrade illicit fentanyl trafficking across the southern border. These investments include:

  1. Hiring an additional 500 CBP Officers at points of entry to increase the number of vehicles scanned at the border.
  2. Expanding the DHS’ Fentanyl Abatement and Response Team (FAST) to better coordinate with state, local, and federal partners on disrupting fentanyl distribution networks.
  3. Create additional Transnational Criminal Investigative Units (TCIUs) to improve U.S. and host country ability to investigate TCOs.
  4. Invest in equipment, training, and medication to protect frontline officers from TCO elements and accidental fentanyl exposure.
  5. Expedite acquisition and placement of non-intrusive inspection technology to reduce fentanyl smuggling at ports of entry.

Each of these investments would lead to less illicit fentanyl in our communities and save American lives. As members of Congress, we cannot afford to play politics with the health and safety of those we represent. We urge you to reject the proposed cuts to DHS and fund these programs at the appropriate level so that fewer American families will be subjected to the pain caused by illicit fentanyl.

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