WASHINGTON, D.C., January 12, 2024 – U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) yesterday participated in a Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing entitled, “Stopping the Flow of Fentanyl: Public Awareness and Legislative Solutions.” The witnesses were: artist and philanthropist, Jason “Jelly Roll” DeFord; National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, Patrick Yoes; and retired Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Christopher J. Urben.
In her remarks, Senator Britt began by stressing the importance of confronting the national security, humanitarian, and economic crisis at the United States’ southern border that exacerbates the flood of fentanyl into communities across the country. She listed out several tangible policy solutions across more than 15 pieces of legislation she has sponsored or cosponsored that would end the border crisis.
As Senator Britt noted in her line of questioning, there were over 112,000 overdoses in 2023, with these devastating numbers representing real people with their own individual stories of pain, tragedy, and loss. She highlighted the heartbreaking human cost of the fentanyl crisis on families in every corner of our society. Mr. DeFord, winner of multiple CMT Music Awards and a Grammy Award nominee, thanked Senator Britt for her remarks.
Senator Britt’s line of questioning also highlighted the rapidly evolving landscape of fentanyl trafficking, including technological advances by transnational cartels and the Chinese Communist Party.
A transcript follows:
BRITT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the witnesses for taking the time to be here with us today, particularly to talk about such an important issue.
I want to echo what several of my colleagues have said – The United States is facing a devastating fentanyl crisis, which is only growing worse daily [because of] the crisis we see at our southern border.
Now, we know what we need to do when it comes to our southern border. We need to secure it with personnel, more personnel, physical barriers, technological barriers; we’ve got to fix the broken asylum process; we have got to stop the abuse of parole, bolster interior enforcement, execute final orders of removal, end Catch and Release, put back in Remain in Mexico – we owe it to the citizens of our great nation to secure it, and to help stop the flow of fentanyl.
Make no mistake – this is a national security crisis, an economic crisis, and a humanitarian crisis. The [human] costs … are [absolutely] heart-breaking and gut-wrenching.
The massive influx of fentanyl into the United States has left no community untouched. The day after Christmas, law enforcement in the state of Alabama seized enough fentanyl from two individuals in North Alabama to kill every single person in our state’s two largest cities (combined). You start to think about that and the impact of that, just in one seizure.
We’ve heard many stats today. Over 379 million doses of fentanyl were seized across America in 2022, enough to kill every single American, or every single Alabamian 75 times over.
The results of this poison – it’s flooding our country and we see what’s happening, it’s clear – there were more than 100,000 overdoses, 112,000 to be exact, in 2023, and fentanyl is now the leading cause of death between the ages 18 and 45.
I think it’s critically important that we think about this crisis beyond simple statistics, though. These numbers all represent real people – they represent pain, they represent tragedy, they represent loss – they all have faces and stories, that are touching every corner of our society.
Mr. DeFord, congratulations on your tremendous success. We appreciate you being here today and you sharing your personal story. Your story is one of salvation, and I am so grateful for your willingness (to share it).
I think a lot of times, people in life just share their peaks, that’s all they want you to see. Your willingness to show valleys, and then to show and talk about your relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to talk about climbing out of those valleys – that is going to give somebody else the courage to climb, too. So, thank you, please keep telling your story, and thank you for your willingness to do it here in such a public way today.
As we sit here, though, not every family has a story of success like that. There are families that tonight when they sit down for dinner, in Alabama, or wherever they may be across the nation, there is going to be a chair where someone should be sitting, where they’re not, because of fentanyl poisoning, and because of the effects of this drug.
We saw this last year when a two-year-old, a beautiful little two-year-old, was found dead in Alabama with fentanyl in her system.
As I’ve traveled [my] state and our nation, I routinely hear these stories of heartbreak and tragedy that just are gut-wrenching.
When at the border last year, I went to San Diego, and a DEA officer was sitting there talking to us, and they told us a story of a mom who had two boys. She had two. And they broke apart and shared a (counterfeit) Percocet, y’all know this story. It was laced with fentanyl, and both of those boys died.
As a parent, no one should have to go through that, no parent should have to deal with that heartbreak.
As a momma, I am ready for us to do something now. Not tomorrow. Today. I think we owe it to the kids across this great nation.
So, I would like to know from y’all’s perspective, where are the gaps? We see technology changing, we see what China is doing, getting precursors and bringing them to Mexico across our border. We now see them liquefying fentanyl … Where are the gaps?
I am almost out of time, so I’ll just ask you: where are the gaps in our technology? What do we need to do more of? We’ll just go down the line, and then I’ll be out of time.
URBEN: Give the ability for federal law enforcement to wiretap encrypted applications.
YOES: We need those extra tools to map the organizations and hold them accountable.
BRITT: And Mr. DeFord, do you have anything to add?
DEFORD: I just want to add to your sentiment that the 109,000 people that died in America last year are people, they are humans. Every one of those signified a funeral, a eulogy, a mother, a father, sons, children, cousins, uncles, people just like the people in this room. I think it was really important for you to say that. Thank you for that.
BRITT: Thank you.
A video of Senator Britt’s line of questioning can be viewed here.
Through her role as the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Britt helped lead a hearing on fentanyl and has consistently spoken out against the Biden Administration’s policies that caused and continue to fuel the border crisis.
Additionally, Senator Britt has cosponsored legislation like the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, which is designed to target the flow of the deadly narcotic into the United States by empowering the U.S. Department of the Treasury to target, sanction, and block the financial assets of transnational criminal organizations trafficking fentanyl.
High quality video of Senator Britt’s line of questioning can be downloaded for media usage here.