Press Release

Cuellar, Joyce Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect CBP Officers from Fatal Fentanyl Exposure

CBP’s FY2021 fentanyl seizures have exceeded 10,400 pounds

Washington | Dana Youngentob, DC Press Secretary (202-340-9148), September 20, 2021

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) introduced the Prevent Exposure to Narcotics and Toxics (PREVENT) Act. This bipartisan legislation aims to protect U.S. Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) officers from accidental exposure to fentanyl and other potentially lethal substances they encounter while on the job. In total, CBP personnel have seized 10,469 pounds of fentanyl in FY2021, 9,978 pounds of which was seized during attempts to illicitly smuggle it across the southwest border.

“The men and women of CBP put their lives on the line every single day. They help secure our borders from crime and from the infiltration of illegal drugs,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Containment devices are an important stop-gap measure to prevent secondary exposure to fentanyl and other potentially lethal substances. As the Vice Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations, I will continue to support bills that provide CBP with the necessary resources to carry out their duties safely and efficiently. Thank you to Representative Joyce for working with me on this essential legislation.”

“As the crisis at the southern border continues to spiral out of control, so does the flow of deadly drugs into the United States,” said Congressman Joyce. “Thankfully, the vigilance of our CBP officers has prevented nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl from flooding into American communities. It’s critical that these men and women have the tools and training necessary to do their jobs as safely as possible amid this record-breaking surge of drug trafficking. I’m proud to introduce the PREVENT Act with Congressman Cuellar and will continue to do everything in my power to support our CBP officers as they work to defend and maintain our borders.”

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report that found CBP officers handling fentanyl were at risk and highlighted concerns that the drug was not being stored correctly and that some CBP facilities did not have naloxone available in case of an accidental exposure.

CBP officers are at risk of exposure to illicit drugs such as fentanyl through inhalation, ingestion, skin contact, contact with needles, or mucous membrane contact via the nose, eyes and mouth. The PREVENT Act would help equip officers with lifesaving technology that can prevent such exposures. Specifically, the bill would require the CBP Commissioner to issue containment devices to CBP personnel and provide training on their use. Containment devices are a critical tool that provide a secondary protection beyond PPE by creating a controlled, negative pressure environment to further reduce exposure to hazardous substances. These devices not only prevent exposure to fentanyl and other dangerous substances, but also better preserve chemical substances for forensic analysis and improve the efficacy of investigations.