The Department of Homeland Security seized nearly twice as many hard drugs at the U.S.-Mexico border during President Trump’s first term in office than in President Barack Obama’s two terms, according to a senior department official.
Senior official performing the duties of DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday that DHS law enforcement working at the southern border blocked 4 million pounds of hard drugs, or narcotics that do not include marijuana, from entering the United States since January 2017.
“It’s worth noting that we’re on track to seize drugs at roughly twice the rate of the previous eight years,” Cuccinelli said. “So in these four years, we’ve seized about as many drugs as have been seized in the previous eight of the hard drugs — we’re talking fentanyl, meth — those, that level of drug seizures.
“We need greater authority or some authority to designate transnational organized crime at a level below a foreign terror organization, but giving us authorities above the level of mere criminal law,” he said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, whose personnel work at the country’s air, land, and sea borders, saw a dramatic increase in methamphetamine seizures in fiscal year 2020, which began Oct. 1, 2019. At ports of entry and field offices nationwide, which does not include drugs seized by Border Patrol, officers uncovered 142,000 pounds of meth in the first 11 months of fiscal 2020 compared to 69,000 in all of last year, according to agency data. Meth busts have soared from 19,000 pounds seized in 2014.
A Washington Examiner analysis found that in 2018 CBP seized more pounds of drugs, including marijuana, at unguarded sections of the border than at ports of entry or through cargo and mail.
Cuccinelli deemed Mexican drug cartels the “most deadly organization in the Western Hemisphere” and massive in size to the extent that they are a “destabilizing force” in the region.
In 2019, 71,000 U.S. citizens died as the result of a drug overdose. Most of the opioids and deadly drugs are produced and smuggled by criminal organizations at the southern border, said Cuccinelli. Dangerous illicit substances are also shipped from countries in Asia and Europe.
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