After visit to U.S.-Mexico border, Hassan says physical barriers ‘may be appropriate’ 

  • U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (left) speaks with Ramiro Cordero, an El Paso Border Patrol, during a recent visit to the U.S-Mexican border. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 5/7/2018 5:40:32 PM

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said more tools are needed at the U.S.-Mexican border to combat the flow of illegal drugs like fentanyl that fuel New Hampshire’s deadly drug epidemic.

And while she’s no fan of President Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the entire southern border, Hassan said “a physical barrier may be appropriate” along some stretches.

New Hampshire’s first-term Democratic senator and former governor made her comments Monday in a telephone call with reporters following her visit last week to the border to get a first-hand evaluation of the drug prevention efforts.

“While law enforcement officers are the first people to say that we can’t arrest our way out of this crisis, as we work to build up our treatment infrastructure, we also have to continue to attack the supply side of this epidemic by boosting drug interdiction efforts,” Hassan said.

Hassan noted that fentanyl, the synthetic drug that can be 100 times more lethal than heroin, contributed to 76 percent of overdose deaths in New Hampshire last year. She added that “the trafficking of drugs like fentanyl by cartels in Mexico is exasperating this crisis.”

The senator said she was briefed during her stops along the border in El Paso and McAllen, Texas, by agents with US. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about the different tactics drug cartels use to smuggle drugs across the border and how agents are trying to stop them.

Hassan said she also met with leaders in Mexico City about strengthening the U.S.-Mexican partnership in battle the opioid epidemic.

“We need more tools at our disposal at the border to combat the flow of drugs and so we need more border patrol personnel,” Hassan said.

Hassan, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also stressed infrastructure, such as “all-weather roads that can get them (border patrol agents) to the border faster in remote places.”

“It means that our ports of entry need to be expanded and staffed,” she added.

Relaying what she was told during her visit, Hassan said barriers may be needed “in some situations.”

“In different situations, a physical barrier may be appropriate,” Hassan said. “There may be something else they need first before that. And the type of physical barrier depends a lot of the geography.”

While Hassan is a strong supporter of improving border security, she’s repeatedly said that the president’s push to build a wall along the entire southern border is not necessary or cost-effective.

While praising the border patrol personnel for “their commitment to keeping our country safe,” and pledging “we need to beef up funding for personnel,” Hassan was vague on whether that funding would come through current efforts or through new legislation.

Hassan has co-sponsored the INTERDICT Act, a bill signed into law by the president to ensure border patrol agents have the tools necessary to intercept illegal drugs. And she helped introduced the STOP Act, which aims to limit the flow of deadly synthetic drugs coming into the country through mail or shipping services.

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