WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on countering illicit fentanyl trafficking. The witnesses included The Honorable Todd Robinson, assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, The Honorable Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration at the U.S. Department of Justice, and The Honorable Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the office of national drug control policy at the Executive Office of the President.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“I think we all know that illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids pose an unprecedented threat to American families. Far too many people in America know the heartache associated with the loss of life related to these deadly substances.
“In 2021, more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses – nearly 70% of which were from fentanyl poisoning. Fentanyl-related deaths among children 14 and under have also tripled since 2019. Many of these deaths involve counterfeit prescription pills laced with fentanyl which law enforcement agencies report are easily accessible through social media.
“Addressing this threat will require greater awareness about the dangers of fentanyl, better coordination of local, state, and federal law enforcement, resources for mental health, and effective international cooperation.
“But, where do these drugs even come from? Another way to stem this crisis is to identify and cut off the pipelines where we can. China is the primary source of illicit fentanyl and synthetic opioids that the Mexican cartels are using to manufacture lethal drugs. They’re then smuggling these drugs into the United States. Chinese traffickers and money launderers are also increasing cooperation with Mexican cartels.
“Mexican cartels leverage their drug trafficking profits to acquire sophisticated weapons, corrupt officials, challenge the authority of the Mexican state, and commit terrible atrocities.
“The same cartels are profiting from and prolonging the illegal migration crisis caused by the Biden Administration’s weak enforcement of border security and immigration controls.
“Several of my SFRC colleagues and I released a report last year offering concrete recommendations to improve border security. Unfortunately, the administration refuses to even acknowledge we have a problem.
“It’s time the administration wakes up. We have a serious threat at the border and the president needs to be serious about addressing it.
“The Chinese government’s tacit endorsement of this massive drug trade is a huge issue. Yet, the readout of the president’s meeting with Xi Jinping in November makes no mention of it.
“Worse, if China is complicit in supplying fentanyl that comes to the United States, then we need to consider sanctions.
“Chinese officials should also understand that drug-producing or transit countries eventually become drug-using countries. China’s complacency could have dire consequences for the future of its nation.
“I encourage President Obrador of Mexico to deepen our bilateral security cooperation, for the sake of our region’s security and prosperity.
“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today, and commend the men and women in your organizations for their work protecting our communities.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.