WASHINGTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be better equipped to stop illegal shipments of fentanyl with the border security resources contained in the $106 billion supplemental funding package that President Biden has sent to Congress.
The proposal, as outlined by the White House, would add 1,000 Customs and Border Protection Officers to the fentanyl fight, augmenting the law enforcement presence at the nation’s ports of entry where international cargo and travelers are screened for illicit goods.
“Anyone concerned about the fentanyl crisis should welcome this effort to put more CBPO boots on the ground exactly where the smugglers are focused: airports, seaports and land ports of entry,” said NTEU National President Doreen Greenwald.
NTEU represents about 29,000 frontline employees in CBP’s Office of Field Operations, which staffs 328 ports of entry around the country.
About $13.6 billion of President Biden’s proposal is focused on immigration enforcement and border security. The funding would also equip ports along with Southwestern border with new cutting-edge detection technology that assists CBPOs in finding illegal drugs hidden in cars, trucks and cargo crossing the border.
“According to the agency’s own workload analysis, the Office of Field Operations has been severely understaffed for years, which is why we support President Biden’s call for more hiring,” Greenwald said. “Without it, frontline employees will continue to face excessive overtime shifts, out-of-town deployments that leave their home ports even more understaffed, and the additional stress of dealing with long lines of travelers and shippers enduring longer wait times.”
Fentanyl seizures by CBP are rising. In fiscal year 2023, CBP seized more than 27,000 pounds of fentanyl, compared with 14,600 pounds the previous year, according to CBP drug seizure statistics.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Oct. 31 on the White House funding package. Notably, eight U.S. Senators have already endorsed the supplemental funds for CBP.
“Highlighting the complex situation that CBP must navigate when seizing fentanyl, officials have indicated that individuals are smuggling pills inside seat cushions, car batteries, metal walkers, and even hollowed-out bicycle frames,” according to the senators’ letter. “Furthermore, CBP data has shown that drugs are overwhelmingly being smuggled through U.S. ports of entry—particularly in Arizona and California—and we must do more to ensure that our CBP Officers have the funding, tools, and technology necessary to be able to stop this surge of fentanyl into our country.”
NTEU represents employees in 35 federal agencies and offices.