WASHINGTON, DC – This week, the House Committee on Homeland Security advanced Congressman Dave Joyce’s (OH-14) bill, the PREVENT Act, to protect Customs and Border Protection (CBP) frontline personnel when handling illicit drugs. In FY2021, CBP seized a total of 624,500 pounds of drugs, including 11,203 pounds of fentanyl which is enough to kill the entire U.S. population about eight times over. In south Texas alone, CBP reported a 1,066% increase in the amount of fentanyl seized in FY2021.
“Tragically, as the crisis at the southern border continues to spiral out of control, so does the flow of deadly drugs into our country,” said Congressman Dave Joyce. “In Fiscal Year 2021 alone, more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl were seized during failed attempts to smuggle it across the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s critical that we provide our CBP officers with the tools and training necessary to do their jobs as safely as possible amid this record-breaking surge of drug trafficking. The PREVENT Act would do just that. I thank my colleagues on the House Homeland Security Committee for passing this important legislation and urge leadership to put it on the floor for a vote so that we can protect our CBP officers as they work to defend and maintain our borders.”
“As our nation grapples with a drug overdose crisis of epic proportions from illicit drugs pouring across the border, our CBP personnel are the first line of defense,” said Ranking Member John Katko. “As they carry out this critical homeland security mission, we must ensure their utmost safety when handling illicit, deadly drugs. I thank Rep. Joyce for his leadership on this significant homeland security priority.”
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report that found CBP officers handling fentanyl were at risk and highlighted concerns that the drug was not being stored correctly and that some CBP facilities did not have naloxone available in case of an accidental exposure. CBP officers are at risk of exposure to illicit drugs such as fentanyl through inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, contact with needles, or mucous membrane contact via the nose, eyes and mouth.
The PREVENT Act would help equip officers with lifesaving technology that can prevent such exposures. Specifically, the bill would require the CBP Commissioner to issue containment devices to CBP personnel and provide training on their use. Containment devices are a critical tool that provide a secondary protection beyond personal protective equipment (PPE) by creating a controlled, negative pressure environment to further reduce exposure to hazardous substances. These devices not only prevent exposure to fentanyl and other dangerous substances, but also better preserve chemical substances for forensic analysis and improve the efficacy of investigations.