At Homeland Security Hearing, Tester Presses for Answers on Sending Troops to the Border and Combating Fentanyl

Senator: “I don’t think ending the practice of Title 42 makes a lot of sense right now. I am concerned about the Administration’s preparation, or lack of it”

As part of his continued efforts to secure America’s borders and combat the flow of fentanyl to Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester pressed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials for answers this week on the Administration’s plans to send troops to the southern border and their efforts to combat illicit drug trafficking during a Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing. 

Tester expressed his opposition to the Administration’s plan to end Title 42 and asked officials whether the recently announced deployment of 1,500 active duty military members would help adequately secure the southern border. 

“DHS is planning to end Title 42 next week, and I don’t think ending the practice of Title 42 makes a lot of sense right now. I am concerned about the Administration’s preparation, or lack of it, with an expected surge of migrants that will come to a border…  Just yesterday, DHS asked for 1500 additional active duty military to help border operations, that is gonna happen. So the question is… with the 1500 additional active duty military folks, is there any plan to reassign agents from the northern border or ports or anywhere to the southern border, or will those 1500 active duty troops secure the border?”

Additionally, Tester asked DHS Assistant Director for Investigations Matthew Millhollin whether DHS has the authority to crack down on drug cartels by imposing economic sanctions.

“I recently had the opportunity to introduce the FEND Off Fentanyl Act with ranking member Britt and a bipartisan group of senators to increase Treasury’s ability to sanction criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl. So the question is this: Does DHS need additional authority, or can it work with Treasury to hit these criminal organization where it hurts which is in their wallets?”

Tester then pressed officials on their efforts to hold Chinese criminal organizations accountable for illicit fentanyl trafficking.

“A lot of focus right now is placed on combating the Mexican drug cartels. I think most people understand that we need to hold China accountable as much as Mexican drug cartels for the fentanyl trafficking. What is DHS doing to stop Chinese criminal organizations?”

Tester has consistently led the charge to combat fentanyl trafficking in Montana and secure our nation’s borders. Last month, Tester joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce his Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act — legislation that would impose economic sanctions on those engaged in the international trafficking of illicit fentanyl, precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl, or other related opioids, and declare international trafficking of fentanyl as a national emergency. 

During a recent Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Tester pressed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on combatting Mexican drug cartels and providing law enforcement with additional resources to stop the flow of fentanyl.

In March, Tester continued his push to secure the southern border and stop fentanyl trafficking by calling on the Biden Administration to make additional investments in technology to assist law enforcement in nonintrusive inspections at points of entry. As the Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Tester passed critical provisions in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act and the 2023 government funding bill to fund law enforcement and stop fentanyl trafficking along the southern border.