Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Susan M. Collins and Congressman Bill Owens announced that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives has now passed the Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act of 2010 which will help law enforcement officials along the northern border stem the flow of illegal drugs coming into their communities. The bill requires federal law enforcement to develop a comprehensive and coordinated plan to blunt the illegal drug trade. A recent Government Accountability Office report (Border Security: Additional Actions Needed to Better Ensure a Coordinated Federal Response to Illegal Activity on Federal Lands), requested by Senator John Tester (D-MT), indicated that a wide swath of the northern border needs additional attention to prevent illegal cross border activity.
Schumer is the original sponsor in the Senate and Owens is the original sponsor in the House.
“Law enforcement in communities along the northern border can rest a little easier tonight knowing that resources they need to stop the flow of drugs should be on the way soon,” Schumer said. “As I travel the state one of the first things I hear from law enforcement is how they’re stretched thin trying to fight the drug trade. This bill will ensure that federal law enforcement officials are working hand in glove with cops on the ground to fight drug trafficking.”
“There is nothing more important than the security of our communities,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This strong, bipartisan legislation will deliver the tools and resources we need on the ground to keep communities along the border safe and secure. I will continue working to keep our families safe.”
“This legislation is important to many law enforcement professionals in Maine,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that our bill has passed Congress and will soon be on the President’s desk for signature. I am concerned about the potential for increased production, smuggling, and trafficking of narcotics into Maine. Methamphetamine, in particular, is a growing problem, and increasingly meth and its precursor chemicals are being smuggled into Maine from Canada. This legislation will help those in our law enforcement community, who are on the front line in the war on drugs, do their jobs more effectively.”
“It is critical to both the economic development of Upstate New York and the safety of our communities in the North Country that we take steps to stop the drug trade across the northern border,” Owens said. “Northern New York has benefited for decades from a robust business relationship with Canada and any illegal activity that takes place over our border threatens that relationship.”
The Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act of 2010 amends the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006 to require the Director of National Drug Control Policy, in consultation with the head of each relevant national drug control program agency as well as relevant state, local, tribal, and international governments to submit to Congress a counternarcotics strategy for the northern border. The bill will also:
• Set forth the strategy for preventing the illegal trafficking of drugs across the international border between the United States and Canada;
• Delineate the specific roles and responsibilities of the relevant National Drug Control Program agencies and the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement of DHS for implementing the strategy;
• Identify the specific resources required to implement the strategy; and
• Set forth a strategy to end illegal drug trafficking to and through Indian reservations affected by northern border drug traffic
The northern border of the United States is hard to monitor due to its length and geography and is often exploited by a diverse array of traffickers. Increasingly international traffickers have use Indian reservations as a staging ground for narcotic operations throughout the country.
Drug trafficking has become an increasing problem in Northern New York as international drug smugglers seek every available route to bring their products into the United States. America’s northern border is now the lead gateway for ecstasy to enter the U.S. Since 2005, seizures of ecstasy coming across the northern border has been eight times greater than seizures in our country’s southwest border. According to the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, the amount of ecstasy (MDMA) seized at or between northern border ports of entry increased 594 percent from 2004-2009. And during the last five years law enforcement officials across the country’s northern border have seized an average of almost 400 kilograms of ecstasy per year. Cracking down on the alarming levels of ecstasy coming into northern New York is a significant problem, but other drugs are significant problems as well. Since 2007, cocaine seizures at the northern border have risen from less than 1kg to 18kg; heroin seizures have gone from less than 1kg to 28kg; and marijuana seizures have gone from 2,791kg to 3,423kg.
At a Congressional hearing this year before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Schumer raised concerns regarding illicit traffic along the northern border with Secretary Napolitano during her testimony. At the time, she agreed that the continuing drug trade is a growing and serious problem. Schumer and Gillibrand’s growing concern is that organized criminal elements are increasingly exploiting Federal Indian Reservations on our borders to traffic narcotics, illicit cigarettes, firearms, and humans. The President’s recently released National Drug Control Strategy describes how organized crime takes advantage of the St. Regis Mohawk (Akwesasne) Reservation on New York’s northern border to smuggle metric-ton quantities of high potency marijuana and multi-thousand-table quantities of ecstasy. These areas provide open gateways for trafficking that need to be addressed as soon as possible.
The bill will now head to the President for his signature.