Senate Democrats blocked Hagerty’s legislation three times last Congress despite ongoing fentanyl crisis
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor imploring his colleagues to pass legislation he re-introduced today, the Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act. Hagerty’s legislation would add drug smuggling as an additional basis for Title 42 immigration enforcement authority, thereby preserving an essential tool for Border Patrol agents to quickly remove illegal border crossers and stop the drug trafficking that is fueling the overdose epidemic in America, now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45. Hagerty’s call for passage of his legislation comes amid the Biden Administration’s push for Title 42 to terminate in May with the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Hagerty first led the Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act during the 117th Congress and sought to pass it on the Senate floor in April 2022, November 2022, and December 2022, but Senate Democrats blocked it all three times.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
In February, the Biden Administration argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that Title 42 will terminate in May 2023 with the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Removing one of the last tools available to Border Patrol agents during a record-shattering border crisis is intolerable. Congress should not stand by and refuse to address this obvious problem.
Title 42 authority was initially based on the pandemic. And while I agree that the pandemic is over, the border crisis—and the deadly drug overdose crisis it fuels—is worse than ever. Whether to maintain border security policies should not depend on whether there’s a pandemic.
That’s why I’m re-introducing the Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act today. This legislation would preserve continued use of Title 42 authority to combat drug trafficking at the border. Clearly, that deadly epidemic has not ended. Deadly fentanyl is flooding American communities. Deadly fentanyl—produced with the help of the Chinese Communist Party and smuggled by drug cartels across our southern border.
More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the last 12 months—most from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. It is the number-one cause of death for American adults ages 18 to 45.
The rise in fentanyl overdoses and deaths affects every state and congressional district. It kills the young and old, rich and poor, in cities and in small towns alike. It’s not a partisan issue, and finding a solution shouldn’t be either.
When I talk to Tennessee sheriffs, they tell me that fentanyl is becoming more and more lethal. How a so-called “bad batch” can kill dozens of people.
Once this deadly substance arrives in American communities, it’s too late. We’ve got to stop it before it crosses our borders.
That’s why I’ve re-introduced this legislation to combat drug smuggling.
When I traveled to the border, Border Patrol agents told me that the cartels use human waves of illegal border crossers as cover to transport fentanyl and other deadly narcotics. While Border Patrol agents are diverted to manage caravans of border crossers, the gap in coverage is exploited by smugglers. In many cases, these are well-planned and carefully coordinated occurrences.
The agents told me, “the people don’t stay at the border and the drugs don’t either.”
They also told me that Title 42 is the last tool Border Patrol has left to partially slow the ongoing tidal wave of illegal crossings. We cannot afford to take away this tool in the midst of a crisis.
Letting Title 42 end, without creating a permanent new authority to replace it, empowers drug cartels. It enables them to send migrants across the border at strategic points, bogging down Border Patrol agents with paperwork and processing that takes five times longer without Title 42. This dramatic increase in processing times absent Title 42 will significantly decrease scarce resources available to actually patrol our southern border.
Cartels will then use the longer and more frequent enforcement gaps to move more fentanyl across our border. We cannot allow this to happen.
My legislation simply adds drug smuggling as an additional basis for using Title 42 authority. It would help Border Patrol stop drug traffickers. This should not be controversial.
Yet, last Congress, Democrats blocked its passage three times on the Senate floor. Now that we’re staring down the end of Title 42, it’s time to pass this bill.
I hope my colleagues across the aisle will not let Title 42 expire without action. We must protect the border-security tools we have to stop the fentanyl flowing across our southern border—before more lives are lost.
Thank you, Madam President.
I yield the floor.