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Senators urge DHS secretary to focus on opioid import interdiction

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is consulting with the USPS on the feasibility of implementing a bill aiming to combat illicit opioid imports.

   Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., urged Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday to support a bill that would make the U.S. postmaster-general the consignee for goods, excluding documents, mailed into the United States.
   During a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing for the Department of Homeland Security, Nielsen told Klobuchar that DHS is working with the U.S. Postal Service to ensure “we can, in fact, implement” the Synthetics Trafficking and Opioid Prevention (STOP) Act, if enacted.
   Klobuchar and Whitehouse co-sponsored the Senate bill, which was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and has sat pending in the Finance Committee since February.
   Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, whose retirement went effective Jan. 15, introduced companion House legislation in February, which has sat in the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee ever since.
   Under the bill, the postmaster-general would have to designate licensed customs brokers to file required documents or information for imports of goods through U.S. mail, and would be liable for civil penalties for postal shipment violations committed by a foreign postal operator or the Postal Service.
   The bill seeks to combat illicit opioid imports through U.S. mail by requiring such shipments to be accompanied by advance electronic data submissions to Customs and Border Protection, which is already required for express couriers.
   Whitehouse pointed out that Carfentanil, a Fentanyl variant illicitly imported in mass quantities from China, is incredibly potent and is often shipped in small packages, frequently slipping under the radar of U.S. customs.
   Whitehouse asked Nielsen to prioritize opioid import interdiction on the same level as other border security measures such as border fencing.
   “You have my commitment, sir,” Nielsen said. “We need to do more, and I couldn’t agree more.”

Brian Bradley

Based in Washington, D.C., Brian covers international trade policy for American Shipper and FreightWaves. In the past, he covered nuclear defense, environmental cleanup, crime, sports, and trade at various industry and local publications.