Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Fentanyl scanners that were sitting idle for lack of federal funds can now be installed at the border to catch smugglers

By 37ci3 May9,2024

Fifty-six scanning systems capable of detecting fentanyl in private vehicles will now be installed at US southern border crossings with $200 million in new funding after Congress approved it. This was reported by NBC News the scanners were sitting unused in warehouses.

According to Department of Homeland Security officials, 95 percent of fentanyl seized by U.S. law enforcement agencies is found in private vehicles of U.S. citizens crossing the border, and the scanners are the most powerful tool for detecting fentanyl in the Biden administration’s vehicles.

Following an NBC News report, two senators, three House members and two state attorneys general requested additional funding to install scanners previously requested by DHS. Funding to finally install the machines came through the House Homeland Security appropriations bill, Congress was adopted at the end of March.

According to a senior Customs and Border Protection official, the 56 to be installed with the new funding will be completed by 2026. Thirty-one scanning systems are already in place and 27 are under construction. All scanners are mastered in 2021.

DHS says that once the scanners are installed, 40% of all private vehicles crossing the border will be scanned. Less than 5% of private vehicles are now X-rayed, according to DHS officials.

At ports of entry without scanners, customs officers must rely on their intuition to spot something and detain vehicles for further inspection.

Since 2021, the US government has been fighting to install fentanyl scanners at ports of entry. Critics welcomed the progress, but said it was still a drop in the bucket.

Bobby Watt was with CBP for over 30 years and oversaw non-intrusive inspection scanning at ports of entry before leaving CBP in 2019; blames the bureaucracy for the delays. The goal should be to scan 100% of private cars, he says.

“That would be a no-brainer,” said Watt, now a consultant to Viken Detection, a scanning contractor. “Because if you were a drug smuggler, would you go to a port taking x-rays? Or would you go to someone who does not have an x-ray with him?”

DHS has pointed to construction challenges related to the installation, such as a lack of room at ports of entry to install the systems, and said it does not have the funding it needs from Congress to scan 100% of vehicles. A senior CBP official said 40% of the vehicles to be scanned will not be randomly selected; Instead, they will be the vehicles determined to pose the highest risk.

New congressional funding to reach 40% of vehicles has been welcomed by some parents who have lost children to fentanyl, such as Cindy DeMaio, who lost her daughter to fentanyl poisoning in Ohio in 2016.

DeMaio works with parents across the country to educate others about fentanyl, including putting up billboards along the southern border where fentanyl crosses. “Anything we can do to increase the capture of these people and reduce the negative impact on our country is very powerful,” he said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, criticized the slow effort to install the scanners. In the fall, he called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate DHS spending more than a billion dollars on X-ray equipment. A GAO spokesman said the investigation is ongoing and a report will be completed this year.

Cornyn and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., want any new scanners tested to ensure any technology purchased in the future is the most effective. They introduced a bipartisan bill This year, five types of scanners will be evaluated to ensure they catch the most fentanyl.

“Last year, Customs and Border Protection seized enough fentanyl at the southern border to kill every American 16 times, and we have no way of knowing how much escaped law enforcement,” Cornyn said. “This legislation will help address the glaring problems in the fentanyl detection system by requiring CBP to test new pieces of detection technology at land ports of entry so we can prevent this deadly drug from taking more lives.”

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By 37ci3

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