Tester Urges Officials to “get serious” and Address Flow of Fentanyl from Southern Border to Native Communities

Senator calls on Administration to address BIA recruitment

During a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing this week, U.S. Senator Jon Tester pressed Biden Administration officials on the federal response to the fentanyl crisis on Tribes in Montana, calling for better recruitment of law enforcement and improved border security.

Tester pressed a top Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) official on recruitment of BIA officers, stressing the importance of securing adequate pay to retain and recruit workforce: “How do your wages and benefits compare with the Highway Patrol?… because every one of us understands that we’ve got to have BIA money in the budget to hire officers.”

Tester also urged officials in the hearing to improve security measures at American ports of entry, including additional manpower and enhanced inspection technology: “The fentanyl that’s coming into this country… the vast majority is coming through border stations. We need technology—we have technology, by the way—that can determine that stuff when it’s in a car, in a truck, in a hubcap, whatever it may be. We need to get serious about technology and manpower to secure the Southern border. But if we really want to do this, we’ve got to quit making it a political talking point and get after it from both sides.”

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Tester is a tireless advocate for increasing funding for police and making sure Tribal law enforcement officers have the resources they need to keep communities safe. He recently secured more than $1 billion in critical funding for Tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement and public safety programs in the 2023 government funding bill. Tester was the only member of the Montana delegation to support the bill. Earlier this year, Tester also introduced the Strengthening Tribal Law Enforcement Act  to recruit and retain tribal law enforcement by increasing the pay rates for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Officers.

Tester has consistently led the charge to secure our nation’s borders and combat fentanyl trafficking in Montana. In October, Tester cosponsored his bipartisan Securing America’s Ports of Entry Act to require Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to hire an additional 600 officers annually until staffing needs are fully met. Tester’s legislation was successfully included in the Senate’s bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 (NDAA), which is now awaiting passage by the House before becoming signed into law. He also led a letter alongside seven of his Senate colleagues calling on President Biden to prioritize additional funding, resources, and innovative strategies to strengthen the security of our southern border.


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