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Rounds, Manchin Introduce Bill to Combat Illegal Activity at Southern Border

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation that would authorize the Department of Defense to conduct cyber operations against a range of Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), drug cartels chief among them, and require a related strategy.

“There is a humanitarian and national security crisis at our southern border,” said Rounds, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. “Those wishing to do us harm have taken advantage of the Biden administration’s weak policies. As a result, our country has experienced unprecedented levels of smuggling of illegal drugs, human trafficking and weapons trafficking. This legislation would take meaningful steps to do what President Biden is not: strengthening our southern border and protecting our people.”

“This Administration has failed to secure our southern border against the influx of these deadly substances, including fentanyl, and in the last year, more than 109,000 Americans and 1,400 West Virginians died from drug related overdoses,” said Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to authorize the Department of Defense to develop and deploy cutting-edge cyber capabilities to prevent illegal drugs from crossing into our country. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this commonsense effort to strengthen our border security and combat the drug epidemic that continues to devastate our communities.”

A drug overdose occurs in the United States every five minutes. Drug overdoses, which are largely driven by fentanyl, have been the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 since 2019, surpassing suicide, car accidents, COVID-19 and cancer. Since President Biden took office, over 40,000 pounds of fentanyl have been seized or smuggled across the southern border.  

In May, Rounds and Manchin sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Department of State to hold the People’s Republic of China accountable for its role in the illegal trafficking of synthetic opioid drugs. China is the primary source of the precursor chemicals, which are then processed and manufactured into synthetic opioids by Mexican drug cartels to bring into the United States.