John F. Kennedy International Airport is a conduit for Chinese trafficker’s opioid pipeline, according to Senator Charles Schumer, who’s calling on the federal government to crack down on illegal shipments of fentanyl into the United States.
Specifically, Schumer is pushing a plan for federal investment to beef-up security at the JFK mail facility and other points of entry for the flow of synthetic opioids.
“As the biggest international mail processing facility in the nation, JFK should be New York’s fentanyl firewall and filter out illicit fentanyl and other opioids at our local post offices. We need to both beef it up and make sure it has the real-time tools to meet everyday demands,” Schumer said. “We know China’s opioid assembly line to New York and Long Island starts at JFK, but it can end there, too, and that is what tough sanctions accompanied by new fed funds can help us deliver: a wrench to China’s opioid supply chain.”
Retiring Queens District Attorney Richard Brown called fentanyl the deadliest drug in America during his year end message to borough residents in January. He described it as an opioid painkiller which is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and preliminary numbers had shown that of 229 cases of suspected fatal drug overdoses reported in Queens County in 2018, nearly a third of the cases involved fentanyl.
Schumer announced he would add a New York-specific request to his bipartisan, national plan for critical detection and infrastructure upgrades at JFK international mail facility and he explained the president’s just-proposed budget sets aside $16 million nationally for these kinds of upgrades. There were 1,441 unintentional drug overdose deaths in New York City in 2017, which was a 53 percent increase from 2015, according to the city’s Department of Health, and fentanyl was involved in 44 percent of all fatal overdoses in 2016.
This data suggests that more New Yorkers die of drug overdoses than homicides, suicides and motor vehicle crashes combined. The Senator said the numbers are proof positive of how critical it is to tackle fentanyl as its origin point of China.
“I am pushing for at least $5 million in specifically targeted fed dollars for JFK’s mail processing facility which is about 30 percent of what the president has allocated nationally in his proposed budget,” Schumer said. “However, I will try to get even more than this as the appropriations process plays out, because JFK’s facility needs continuous upgrades to keep pace with the fast-changing methods by traffickers. We need more canines, staff, new infrastructure to the processing facility, and state-of-the-art detection equipment to fully disrupt the opioid supply chain.”
Schumer added the funds would increase and upgrade detection equipment at JFK, including hand-held devices and other X-ray technology that identifies opioids well-packed and disguised to look like everyday packages, like new shoes. Schumer’s bipartisan plan would also establish a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to more effectively combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China, Mexico and elsewhere.