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Schumer Just Worked To Pass Bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act In The Senate And Cited Long Island As A Reason To Act BUT Now A Vote In Congress Is Needed To Finish The Job & Direct Trump Administration To Identify & Sanction Foreign Traffickers Of Synthetic Opioids & Authorize New Funding For Law Enforcement & Intel Agencies

Fentanyl’s Main Path To LI Starts In China, The World’s Largest Producer; New Legislation Helps Support LI’s HIDTA, New York DEA & Locals Who Have Expended So Much Of Their Own Resources To Beat Back Trafficking On The Island  

Schumer: LI Can Finally Deal A Body Blow To Fentanyl & Trafficking—But Congress Needs To Act ASAP

Citing a rare chance for Long Island to finally put a major dent in the opioid epidemic by tackling a key trafficker: China, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer made the case and rallied, today, with local law enforcement for swift passage of his bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act in Congress. The plan has already passed the Senate with Schumer’s pushing, but still needs to pass the House, and Schumer wants this to happen ASAP. Schumer says there is no time to waste and detailed ways the plan will help New York and Long Island. Specifically, the legislation will set aside at least $450 million that, amongst other measures, will help support New York efforts like DEA and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) work. Most importantly, the plan could eventually help to substantially alleviate the burden Long Island law enforcement experiences in bearing the costs of addressing Fentanyl locally. Schumer made the case for full passage, explained what happens next with the sanctions, and local law enforcement explained the work they do in attempts to combat this epidemic, and how this plan can help.  

“The main message today, is that even as far away as Long Island, we have got to find meaningful ways to hold China, currently the world’s largest producer of illicit fentanyl, accountable for its very local role in the trade and trafficking of this deadly drug, fentanyl,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “And our Senate-passed, bipartisan sanctions bill does that, but now it needs to pass Congress if America, and Long Island, are going to see the benefits. Because for years, Chinese laboratories have been cooking-up formulas of death and freely exporting lethal fentanyl across Long Island, where it is killing too many people—and it has to stop. The folks here with me today will agree; it has to stop."

In New York State, from November 2017 to 2018, approximately 2,000 people died from an opioid overdose. About 1,500 of those deaths were from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Schumer’s legislation is critical in the fight to save lives and he and others, today, are pushing for the bill to pass the House and be signed into law. Schumer explained that Long Island serves as a main law enforcement coordination hub, as well. The Long Island-area coordinates a High Intensity Drug Trafficking (HIDTA) team and works especially close with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Schumer explained how the passage of this fentanyl bill could help support these law enforcement efforts.

“This legislation includes at least $450 million in funding for nationwide efforts to combat trafficking at the highest levels of the DOD and State Department. Once that money begins being spent, and the flow of fentanyl to places like Long Island is actually choked, the more funding and resources our local DEA team and our HIDTA professionals here can use for their priorities. And locally, Nassau and Suffolk law enforcement will hopefully find that they, too, are facing less of a sunk cost burden to control for this trafficking locally, so this helps to alleviate the pressure on local budgets, too," Schumer added.

“Drug traffickers based overseas are flooding the United States with deadly fentanyl. While we’ve made tremendous strides in the battle against opioids here on Long Island, we need the federal government to intervene and stop these drugs from ever arriving on our shores. The Fentanyl Sanctions Act will bring us one step closer to ending opioid epidemic. I thank Senator Schumer for taking the lead on this issue and giving law enforcement the tools we need to stop drug traffickers,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.

“Over the past few years, Suffolk County has seen a dramatic increase in the number of fatal overdoses involving fentanyl. Local law enforcement is doing everything in its power to target and prosecute major traffickers and drug dealers operating in our communities, but a broader approach is necessary to stem the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States. I thank Senator Schumer for recognizing the need for federal action on this issue and leading the effort to put an end to the trafficking of this deadly poison into our country,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini.

“The Suffolk County Police Department continues to combat the opioid epidemic that is destroying addicts’ lives and ripping families apart,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said. “I commend Senator Schumer for his Fentanyl Sanctions Act and urge the House of Representatives to pass the legislation that would curtail synthetic opioids coming into this country."

Schumer explained that the Fentanyl Sanctions Act is intended to give law enforcement officials more tools to combat the opioid epidemic. It would direct the President to publically identify foreign traffickers of opioids on an annual basis and use a number of economic policy tools to cripple their operations, including deny access to U.S. markets, blocking transactions with U.S. financial institutions and denying visas. The legislation broadly defines “Traffickers of opioids” to hold accountable manufacturers in China and other countries who make fentanyl analogues and ship them illicitly to the U.S., transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico, who mix fentanyl with other drugs and traffic them into the U.S., and financial institutions that aide these entities. 

While the sanctions are mandatory, the legislation would only allow the President to waive certain sanctions on state-owned enterprises if a country, like China, scheduled the entire category of fentanyl-type substances as controlled substances and initiated substantial regulatory reforms or substantially increased the number of prosecutions of opioid traffickers. Additionally, the legislation establishes a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China and Mexico. The legislation would also direct the President to commence diplomatic efforts to establish an international opioid control regime and provide new funding to law enforcement agencies to combat the trafficking of synthetic opioids.  Finally, the legislation would provide authorize additional funding to departments and agencies to ensure robust collection of intelligence and enforcement of these new sanctions.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Require imposition of sanctions on drug manufacturers in China who knowingly provide synthetic opioids to traffickers, transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico who mix fentanyl with other drugs and traffic them into the U.S. and financial institutions that assist such entities. Waivers would be provided for countries that take sufficient action to implement and enforce regulations on synthetic opioid production.
  • Authorize new funding to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Department of Defense and Department of State, to combat the foreign trafficking of synthetic opioids. The bill delivers at least $450 million nationwide to State, DOD and Treasury.
  • Urge the President to commence diplomatic efforts with U.S. partners to establish multilateral sanctions against foreign synthetic opioid traffickers.
  • Establish a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to more effectively combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and elsewhere.

Fentanyl is trafficked into the United States primarily from China and Mexico, and is responsible for the ongoing fentanyl epidemic. The People’s Republic of China is the world’s largest producer of illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and their immediate precursors. From the People’s Republic of China, those substances are shipped primarily through express consignment carriers or international mail directly to the United States, or, alternatively, shipped directly to transnational criminal organizations in Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. Some officials estimate that China is responsible for over 90 percent of the illicit fentanyl found in the U.S.

In the fiscal year 2017, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) made 118 seizures of illicit fentanyl totaling approximately 240 lbs. in the express consignment carrier [ECC] environment and 227 seizures totaling approximately 92 lbs. of illicit fentanyl at international mail facilities (IMFs). The majority of illicit fentanyl at IMFs and ECC locations is shipped in purities of over 90 percent, whereas the majority of fentanyl seized within the land border environment is seized in purities of less than 10 percent. A single kilogram of fentanyl (2.2lbs) purchased in China carries the potential of being lethal for five hundred thousand people.

The heroin epidemic has hit Long Island especially hard. According to Newsday, in 2018 there were 110 opioid overdose deaths in Nassau County, and 373 opioid overdose deaths in Suffolk County, with the total number of deaths amounting to 483. According to the New York State Department of Health, there were 191 opioid overdoses in Nassau County in 2017; 58 of those overdoses were related to heroin and 159 were overdoses involving opioid pain relievers including illicitly produced opioids such as fentanyl. In Suffolk County in 2017, there were 421 opioid overdoses Out of that 421; 143 of those overdoses were heroin-related, and 381 overdoses involved opioid pain relievers. 

Schumer pointed to a handful of other 2018 and 2019 drug busts on Long Island as examples of the drastic presence of fentanyl plaguing our communities:

  • In April 2018, more than 90 pounds of fentanyl and heroin was seized in Suffolk county—the largest seizure in Suffolk County history.
  • In August, authorities arrested 16 people in Montauk and seized 650 grams of cocaine, various pills, and drug paraphernalia.
  • In September, 25 people in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx were arrested for being involved in a heroin packaging operation, involving $2 million worth of heroin that also made its way to Long Island.
  • In November, 19 people were indicted in connection to an alleged drug trafficking ring on Long Island which sold heroin, cocaine, crack, opioid pills, and other narcotics. Authorities seized 425 grams of heroin, which amounts to 15,000 individual doses. 
  • In November, 5 people were charged in connection to a Long Beach narcotics ring which sold heroin, cocaine, crack and other pills. Authorities seized more than half a kilogram of drugs and 100 pills, worth $650,000.
  • In March, 14 people in Nassau were charged for being involved in a drug ring that sold both heroin and cocaine. Authorities seized around 50,000 doses of heroin.
  • In March, 5 people were arrested for trafficking heroin, fentanyl, and crack cocaine in the Riverhead area.
  • In May, 50,000 doses of heroin, worth $600,000 to $700,000, were seized in a Freeport operation.
  • This month, more than a dozen people were charged for being involved in a drug-trafficking operation that sold and distributed cocaine and heroin on Suffolk's South Shore. Authorities seized 3.5 kilograms of heroin, crack, and powder cocaine.

Following a commitment to the U.S. at the G-20 in December 2018, Chinese regulators announced on April 1, 2019, that a wider range of fentanyl derivatives would be declared controlled substances in China on May 1, 2019. China has struggled to enforce its current drug laws and continues to deny that its illicit fentanyl producers are a major source of the illicit opioids contributing to the U.S. opioid crisis. To ensure accountability, Senators Schumer, Cotton, Brown, Crapo, Menendez, Toomey, Rubio, Shaheen, Cornyn, Markey, Capito, Peters, Feinstein, and Blackburn’s sanctions legislation would pressure the Chinese government to move forward with an aggressive plan to enforce its announced new laws and provide the U.S. executive branch with flexible new sanction tools to go after actors, from manufacturers to traffickers, in China and other countries. Read more about the bill here.