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Schumer: Bipartisan Bill Will Provide Feds With More Resources: Including Additional Border Agents And Scientists, Drug Labs, Training & New Portable Devices To Detect & Intercept Illicit Fentanyl And Other Synthetic Opioids

Senator Says Binghamton And The Southern Tier Has Experienced An Explosion Of Drug Use Including Fentanyl-Laced Heroin & Meth, As Well As Drug-Related Crime

Schumer: Feds Need More Resources To Shutdown Stream Of Fentanyl From Ever Reaching Broome County


Speaking in Binghamton alongside local law enforcement officials, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced his support for bipartisan legislation that would help cutoff the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, Mexico, and other countries into Upstate New York and across the United States. With fentanyl increasingly making its way onto the streets of Binghamton, Schumer launched a major effort to push the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act also known as the INTERDICT Act and provide additional resources to confront the epidemic. The legislation, introduced by Senator Markey (MA), would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the hi-tech tools and resources needed to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers. Schumer said he would work with his colleagues to take action on this issue that is destroying families in New York and the rest of the country.

“These deadly substances are being delivered to our homes, being sold on our streets, and destroying our families. We know how they get here and where they come from, now we need to give CBP the resources to stop this flood and help save lives,” said Senator Schumer. “The INTERDICT Act will provide those on the frontlines with hi-tech tools that can root out fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that are leading to tragic deaths here in Binghamton and throughout New York. The devastation these drugs cause is not a partisan issue, and I’ll be fighting hard to get my colleagues on board to get this bill through the Senate.”

Schumer explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has quickly swept into the Southern Tier and is wreaking havoc and destroying families. According to the Broome County District Attorney’s Office, there have already been 17 confirmed overdose deaths in the county in the first three months of 2017. There were 76 overdose deaths in 2016, over 90% of which were related to heroin or opiates.

With the crisis worsening, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar declared the county's opioid epidemic a "public health emergency” in January. Schumer said that the situation was brought further into the spotlight in March of this year when a massive drug bust in Binghamton found $100,000 worth of heroin, $16,000 worth of crack cocaine, and $43,000 in cash from suspected drug sales.

Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most of the fentanyl being sold on the street is illicitly manufactured. While distributors in China are the principal source of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drug, as well as a source for finished-product illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, Mexico is the primary source for illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States. Fentanyl suppliers then use methods to mislabel shipments or conceal them inside legitimate goods in order to avoid CBP detection. In 2016, CBP seized nearly 200 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, primarily from along the southwest border. This is a 25-fold increase over seizures in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, deaths involving synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl, increased by 72 percent, taking more than 9,500 lives. The labs that make these synthetic opioids and take advantage of CBP’s limited capabilities to screen international packages, know that fentanyl is extremely lucrative for dealers and cartels, who can sell $3000 to $5000 in fentanyl purchased from a Chinese drug laboratory for up to $1.5 million on the street. 

To address these challenges, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the INTERDICT Act in March of 2017 in order to ensure CBP has tools to identify illicit drugs and prevent them from coming across the border. Schumer, who has a history of working to get CBP resources and equipment necessary to keeping our ports and borders safe, announced his support for the bi-partisan legislation.

Specifically, the INTERDICT Act:

  • Ensures that CBP will have additional portable chemical screening devices available at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.
  • Provides CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities – including scientists available during all operational hours – to interpret screening test results from the field.  
  • Authorizes – based on CBP guidance – the appropriation of $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.

Schumer’s push comes as law enforcement have begun to warn about new and more-deadly potent varieties of fentanyl being found in the United States, shipped here from overseas manufacturers.  Specifically, law enforcement is also very concerned with the emergence of “3-methylfentanyl,” as well as “Carfentanil,” one of the strongest opioids in the fentanyl class of drugs.  Carfentanil, which is an opioid used to tranquilize elephants, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and has been found in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. 

Schumer noted that with Upstate New York’s proximity to the international border with Canada, it’s even more critical to strengthen our border screening ability.  Schumer explained CBP, which is on the front lines of the U.S. effort to stop fentanyl from crossing into our borders from abroad, requires these additional resources to keep ahead of fentanyl manufacturers looking to ship drugs into the United States. CBP has a number of tools it uses to screen contraband smuggled into the United States at the border or through the mail. When it encounters a suspicious substance, it can be difficult to detect the source of the illicit material and whether it poses a hazard to them. In order to confront this challenge, CBP has had success with screening and determining illicit drugs, like fentanyl, with the help of high-tech, handheld chemical screening devices. The INTERDICT Act ensures that CBP has access to additional portable chemical screening devices and extra personnel in their laboratories, in order to better interpret tests gathered from the field, and minimize agent’s exposure to dangerous substances.

 Schumer was joined by local law enforcement and elected officials.

“The opioid epidemic plaguing our communities requires an all hands on deck approach to effectively combat the threat it presents to the safety and wellbeing of those who call the Southern Tier home. We have made great strides in the City of Binghamton to shut down pipelines for these substances, and will continue to work closely with our partners at all levels to keep our neighborhoods safe. I support this legislation Senator Schumer is pushing, because it is another important tool in our arsenal to keep these deadly substances out of the country. I thank him for his leadership on this important issue and appreciate him fighting alongside us to combat this public health crisis” said Mayor Rich David.

“Last year Broome County saw 76 drug overdose deaths -- making it the deadliest year on record. And, sadly, each week, we meet with more families of drug users who have fatally overdosed.  We are making progress; we’ve sent dozens of big-time drug dealers to state prison, and we have paired 246 drug users with treatment. But we need more resources to prevent drugs from entering Broome County.  I applaud Senator Schumer and the bipartisan efforts in Congress to keep drugs out of the United States; with this much-needed help from the federal government we will continue to send dealers to prison and seek help for users. We will continue our fight for safer streets and a brighter future for Broome County” said Defense Attorney Cornwell.

“Broome County has lost too many lives to opioid addiction. It is incumbent upon our community leaders to take the lead in addressing the issue of drug addiction, and that is why in response to this rapidly growing problem, I have declared a public health crisis. Our local law enforcement, county, city and town officials and our County District Attorney have diligently worked together to combat this threat to our public health. I welcome the support of the federal government to help combat this at the highest levels. The legislation Senator Schumer is supporting will be invaluable to keeping fentanyl and other illegally imported substances out of our communities” said County Executive Jason Garnar.