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Schumer sees Peace Bridge as new bulwark against illegal opioids

President Trump’s signature on a bill passed by both houses of Congress is all that remains for the border station at the Peace Bridge and other local ports of entry to become major obstacles in the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, Mexico and other countries, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Monday.

And Schumer wants Trump to designate Customs and Border Protection agents at the Peace Bridge as among the first in the nation to be armed with new high-tech, portable tools and personnel to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers.

“New York is just one signature away from writing a new chapter in the opioid scourge,” Schumer said in urging the president to sign the bill. “This new law will make sure our ports of entry like the Peace Bridge or Buffalo-Niagara Airport 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 will be safer because they will be able to detect dangerous substances more quickly and without exposure.”

With the Peace Bridge and Buffalo Niagara International Airport as major venues for fentanyl smuggling, Schumer said CBP can use the new equipment to examine packages and intercept masked substances.

“As a port of entry, Buffalo should be amongst the first locations to receive new high-tech drug scanners once this bill is signed into law,” he said.

Schumer explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, primarily originates in Mexico and often enters the U.S. in mislabeled shipments or concealed inside baby powder, candles or laundry detergent. Schumer supported bipartisan legislation introduced by three fellow senators last year to provide CBP with tools to identify and intercept illicit drugs.

The new legislation:

• 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.

Schumer said the new bill ensures that CBP has access to additional portable chemical screening devices and extra personnel in their laboratories, in order to better interpret tests gathered from the field, and minimize agents' exposure to dangerous substances.

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