Sen. Chuck Schumer called on President Donald Trump on Sunday to sign a bill that would authorize thousands of portable drug-detection machines to be used at airports.
The handheld machines would be able to detect fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine — which Schumer said is often sent through the mail disguised as baby powder, candles, or laundry detergent. He said 60 percent of international mail comes through Kennedy Airport.
“The opioid epidemic has become so deadly, it qualifies as a national emergency,” he said. “In this year, in 2018, it’s time to bring in the calvary and we need to give JFK Airport some armor . . . Every day we wait, someone is going to die.”
Where the devices go would be up to Customs and Border Protection, according to Schumer.
The bill, the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act, or INTERDICT, was passed last month.
Schumer said the INTERDICT Act would also employ hundreds of scientists across the country to determine where the fentanyl came from and what gangs tend to use it.
“A great New Year’s gift for our people in the Northeast, and particularly in New York, would be having these handheld detectors at JFK ASAP,” he said, adding that he’s asking Trump “not to delay, not to wait, just get it signed, get it done.”
Schumer said the INTERDICT Act doesn’t specify where the machines should go “except to the areas of greatest need, and I would argue that JFK is the greatest need in the country.”
The machines would cost about $20,000 each, he said.
Schumer said CBP seized more than 1,200 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal year 2017, more than double the amount seized the year before. Schumer said much of the fentanyl comes from China and Mexico.