WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), both members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation to tackle the fentanyl crisis by addressing critical pieces of the fentanyl supply chain before the finished product enters the U.S. The Combatting Fentanyl Trafficking from China and Mexico Act would target actors in Mexico and China involved in the production and transit of fentanyl to the U.S. through a combination of sanctions and incentives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in less than a decade, the number of deaths attributed to synthetic opioids (of which fentanyl accounts for 90%) has increased by nearly 200% — from roughly 65 people a day to 192 people a day. In 2021, 70,000 American lives were lost to the fentanyl crisis. Before this low-cost, highly potent drug enters the United States, precursor chemicals are shipped from China to Mexico where cartels use those chemicals to manufacture the fentanyl that is then illegally moved across the border and sold.

“Fentanyl is devastating our communities, and we can't wait until it gets to America to take action. That’s why I’m teaming up with Senator Hagerty on bipartisan legislation to disrupt the early stages of the fentanyl trade. We can do so much more to stop the chemical components of illegal fentanyl from getting into the supply chain, meaning these substances have a lower chance of ever reaching the southern border. Our bill would ensure that stopping the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. takes a higher priority in our relationships with Mexico and China and equips the administration with new tools to help secure their cooperation,” said Murphy.

“The rise in fentanyl overdose deaths affects every state—it’s not a partisan issue, and finding a solution shouldn’t be either,” said Hagerty. “That’s why I’m pleased to partner with Senator Murphy on this legislation targeting the flow of fentanyl before it gets to our southern border by pressuring Mexico and China to crackdown on this deadly trade and imposing sanctions against entities in those countries that facilitate fentanyl production and trafficking.” 

Specifically, the Combatting Fentanyl Trafficking from China and Mexico Act would:

  • Require the State Department to strengthen efforts between the U.S. and Mexico to combat fentanyl production, pursue prosecution of transnational criminal organizations involved in the trade, reduce the number of illicit firearms crossing the border, and provide assistance to Mexico to strengthen relevant law enforcement agencies;
  • Authorize targeted sanctions on Chinese individuals and companies involved in the fentanyl trade;
  • Authorize the lifting of sanctions on designated entities in China if significant progress is made on countering fentanyl;
  • Publicly designate airports, ports and states in Mexico that are major transit sites for fentanyl and fentanyl precursors;
  • Authorize additional assistance to Mexico if significant progress on countering fentanyl is made.

Earlier this month, Murphy chaired a U.S Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing on transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Murphy also proposed potential investments at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to tackle the fentanyl crisis. In February, Murphy discussed both Mexico and China’s role in fentanyl trafficking at a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Earlier this year, Murphy traveled with a bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation to Mexico City where he met with President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador to discuss how the U.S. and Mexico can work together stem the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. and gun trafficking from the U.S. into Mexico.