Commissioner Kerlikowske's Remarks at the Sen. Markey Roundtable in Boston on Fentanyl
Remarks as prepared for June 3, 2016
Good morning, Senator Markey, and distinguished members of this panel. Thank you for the opportunity to participate today in this important discussion.
Before my current position as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which I have held for over two years, I served in multiple drug policy and law enforcement roles, including the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Chief of Police in Seattle, and the Police Commissioner of Buffalo.
CBP is America’s unified border security agency and it has a critical role in the effort to keep dangerous drugs out of our communities. We work in close cooperation with Federal, state, local, tribal, and international partners to target and disrupt narcotics smugglers at, and approaching, the U.S. border.
Last fiscal year, FY 2015, CBP officers and agents seized 3.3 million pounds — nearly four tons a day — of drugs across the Nation. CBP’s seizures of heroin, specifically, increased 23 percent from the previous year totaling more than 6,000 pounds.
CBP seizures of synthetically made opioids like fentanyl, while relatively small compared to heroin, have also significantly increased from approximately 8 pounds in FY 2014, to nearly 200 pounds in FY 2015. These amounts seem low, but it is important to note that a single pound of fentanyl can yield hundreds of thousands of potentially fatal doses.
The vast majority of CBP’s drug seizures occur at ports of entry along the Southwest land border, but we also interdict heroin and fentanyl transported by couriers on commercial airlines, deeply concealed in cargo shipments, and shipped via online orders through international mail and express consignment services.
To detect dangerous drugs, CBP’s frontline officers and agents use sophisticated technology and capabilities including large x-ray equipment, infrared spectrophotometers (for fentanyl detection), and canines.
CBP encounters nearly one million people across the country every day at our ports of entry. As part of our commitment to protecting the health and safety of the public, CBP was the first Federal law enforcement agency to initiate naloxone training for our officers. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose and has become an important lifesaving tool.
While continued efforts to intercept drugs at the border are a key aspect of addressing this issue, interdictions, arrests, and convictions alone will not solve this problem. We need to focus on prevention, and on treatment, in conjunction with the deterrence of drug trafficking by criminal organizations.
Thank you for holding this important discussion today. I am happy to answer your questions.