February 15, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) today questioned the Biden administration’s border security efforts as fentanyl supplied by the Chinese Communist Party and Mexican cartels continues to kill Americans. Ricketts shared the story of Taryn Lee Griffith, a Nebraskan who lost her life due to a counterfeit drug laced with fentanyl.
“The Mexican cartels have taken advantage of weak border enforcement to surge the flow of fentanyl to the U.S.,” said Ricketts. “Until the Biden Administration takes action to secure our southern border to stop the flow of illegal immigration and drugs, I’m afraid this is going to be a bigger problem in the future.”
Ricketts’ comments came during an exchange with Dr. Rahul Gupta, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Watch the exchange here and read a transcript below.
Senator Ricketts: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“Taryn Lee Griffith was a 24-year-old mom from Nebraska who died in 2021 of a fentanyl overdose. Her father Mike said that once you met Taryn, you would never forget her. She had a personality that drew peoples’ attention the moment she walked in the room – and a big heart for others.
“The day that Taryn died she was out with friends and she took a pill that she thought was Percocet – it was laced with fentanyl and that is what killed her.
“Taryn’s youngest daughter was just 6 months old when her mother died and she has a 5-year-old half-sister. They’ll have to get to know Taryn through pictures and stories from family.
“Fentanyl, as I think we all agree, robs children of their parents and parents of their children. They rob communities of our friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
“From 2014 to 2019, most fentanyl entered the U.S. by the international mail direct from China. Now it’s being shipped from China to Mexico, manufactured into pills in illegal labs, and then smuggled across the border.
“The Mexican cartels have taken advantage of weak border enforcement to surge the flow of fentanyl to the U.S. With border agents and local law enforcement overwhelmed by the surge of illegal immigration, it’s easier than ever for cartels to bring fentanyl into the U.S.
“Last fiscal year, the CBP seized 14,700 pounds of fentanyl. I can tell you in my experience as a governor, in the last two years of my administration, we saw the amounts of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine double, triple, quintuple as our State Patrol confiscated it as it came through our state.
“Until the Biden administration takes action to secure our southern border to stop the flow of illegal immigration and drugs, I’m afraid this is going to be a bigger problem in the future.
“So, my question is for Dr. Gupta: CBP reported 156,274 enforcement encounters on the border only last month. With this large amount of unregulated activity and movement of people, is it even possible to stop the flow of fentanyl across the border? Do we need to stop the flow of illegal immigration first? It seems like either there’s more drugs coming across the border or the Biden administration is not stopping those drugs coming across the border. What’s the Biden administration’s plan for this?”
Dr. Gupta: “Thank you, Senator.
“The fact is all the elements we have we know that most of the drugs that are coming through are through ports of entry. And it is through commercial traffic, it’s through private traffic, and it’s through individuals. We still do not scan enough of that traffic, and that’s where the president has talked about making sure that we have scanners. We do have technology to place and scan every vehicle that needs scanning. We’re not there yet. We want to be there. That’s the whole point.
“So, when we see increased fentanyl, it’s because we are applying technology. I want to see every port have that technology and be able to scan every vehicle that we can coming in. But the problem does not begin or end at the border. We’ve got to be working at ports in Mexico, which we are with the Coast Guard, training SEMAR, the Mexican Navy, to make sure they’re doing their job because they’re the ones who are in control of the ports there to stop those shipments of precursors, but also the prepared product as well.
Senator Ricketts: “Now, when I was down at the southern border, a couple of times as governor, one of the things in talking to the folks down there they said that the cartels will push across a group of illegal immigrants in one location, thus drawing our resources off, then push the fentanyl in a different location. You’re saying it’s coming through the ports, but when I was on the border, that’s not what I was hearing when I was down there.”
Dr. Gupta: “Senator, we’ve got to understand one basic pretext here: these are dispassionate businessmen, working men and women, going after profit. So, they’ve deployed these technologies and these tactics to do all of these things. And every time we seize, we deny them the profits. The thing is that these are calculated losses. Instead of going through the unforgiving terrain, they want their retail product to get in the market and make money for them as quickly as possible and that’s where ports of entry make sense.
“Now what we have to do, is deny them just enough so that it is no longer profitable and it no longer supports their operating capital. And that’s the strategy that it’s important to understand – that working where they are dependent on their product to get through is exactly what’s needed to obstruct and disrupt that.”
Senator Ricketts: “We’ve about the CCP and about the supply chain there. What’s the Biden administration’s thought on how we stop the CCP from not only violating our airspace with spy balloons, but also on the precursors of this very deadly drug?”
Dr. Gupta: “Senator, I’ve been several times to the border and will be going again. I’ve seen the tunnels, the subterranean tunnels, as well as marine drones and other aspects. And therefore, it becomes important that we provide those resources to our brave women and men at Customs and Border Protection for both technology, infrastructure, as well as resources to be able to go after – and that’s exactly what the president will be asking for in his budget really soon. But this is why having those 123 additional scanners, the large scanners, is going to be so important in our ports of entry as well.”
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