Photo Courtesy of DEA
In October, two postal packages containing 725 grams of fentanyl arrived at JFK and were sent to a home in Mastic Beach, L.I., before it was ultimately seized
by federal authorities.
By Forum Staff
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday called on President Donald Trump to immediately sign a recently passed bipartisan bill that will help cut off the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, Mexico, and other countries into New York via John F. Kennedy International Airport.
According to Schumer, the “International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act,” also known as the INTERDICT Act, will give U.S. Customs and Border Protection new hi-tech—and portable—tools and personnel to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers.
In Fiscal Year 2017, Schumer noted, more than 81 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were seized via international mail and private carriers. In New York, approximately one million pieces of mail enter the JFK mail facility each day – roughly 60 percent of the nation’s international mail. According to reports, seizures of fentanyl at the mail center increased from seven in 2016 to 84 in 2017—all from China. Most recently, in October, two postal packages containing 725 grams of fentanyl arrived at JFK and were sent to a home in Mastic Beach, L.I., before it was ultimately seized by federal authorities. The packages originally came from Hong Kong.
Schumer also pointed out that drugs have been seized via commercial flights as well at the airport. In October, 17 individuals were charged with operating a drug ring that transported cocaine and heroin on commercial flights to JFK from Arizona.
“Now that Congress has passed the INTERDICT Act, New York is just one signature away from writing a new chapter in the opioid scourge,” Schumer said. “This new law will make sure our ports of entry, field labs and international mail facilities have access to more handheld chemical scanners to test suspicious substances and provide vital real-time data on its source. That means narcotics, like illicit fentanyl, can be quickly detected, identified and seized on the spot—and it means our diligent screening staff is more safe because they will not have to risk their own safety to expose dangerous substances.”
Specifically, the INTERDICT Act:
• Ensures that CBP will have additional portable chemical screening devices available at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.
• Provides CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities – including scientists available during all operational hours – to interpret screening test results from the field.
• Authorizes – based on CBP guidance – the appropriation of $9 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.
According to the City Health Department, in 2016, there were 1,374 drug overdose deaths in the five boroughs; fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, was found in 44 percent of those overdose deaths.
“As a major port of entry, JFK International Airport should be amongst the first locations to receive new high-tech drug scanners once this bill is signed into law,” Schumer said.