CPA, Law Enforcement, and Drug Advocacy Groups Urge Biden to Close De Minimis Loophole to Address Fentanyl Crisis

WASHINGTON — The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA), along with a coalition of law enforcement and other organizations devoted to fighting against the fentanyl crisis plaguing our nation, today urged President Biden to take immediate action to close the de minimis loophole, which is contributing to the current drug crisis, including the importation of deadly fentanyl, that is plaguing American families and communities. Section 321 of the Tariff Act of 1930, known commonly as “de minimis,” allows individual packages to be shipped directly to American consumers with virtually no inspection or documentation and free of duty if the contents are valued beneath the de minimis threshold of $800. 

Signatories of the letter include National Sheriff’s Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Lost Voices of Fentanyl, Shatterproof, and Kelsie’s Cause. Read the full letter HERE.

“We are writing as a coalition of associations fighting the growing and deadly problem of narcotic poisonings in the United States,” the coalition letter states. “Our coalition represents both the families of victims of illicit drugs and associations advocating on behalf of domestic law enforcement officers. We have united to urge you, as President, to take immediate action to close the de minimis provision in U.S. trade law that is helping to fuel the current drug crisis devastating American families and communities and exhausting the resources of U.S. law enforcement.”

Michael Stumo, CEO of CPA, recently testified in front of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability on how the de minimis loophole is contributing to the nation’s fentanyl crisis. Earlier this month, Stumo wrote in an op-ed that “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that the fentanyl being shipped directly to U.S. homes is extremely potent — often with more than 90 percent purity. That’s far stronger than the average 10 percent concentration for fentanyl seized at the border.”

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), imports using the de minimis loophole include “high-risk shipments that may contain narcotics, merchandise that pose a risk to public safety, counterfeits, or other contraband.” CBP recently stated that the agency “continues to see bad actors seeking to exploit the increasing volumes of de minimis shipments to transit illicit goods, including fentanyl and the precursors and paraphernalia used to manufacture it.”

“In short, as long as this provision exists, CBP officials have virtually no means of stopping the importation of illicit drugs, such as fentanyl, and other dangerous substances that are imported under the de minimis provision,” the coalition letter continues. “It is clear that the Section 321 de minimis trade provision is a major driver for the atmospheric influx of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, into our country. The impact on our citizens and communities is severe. CDC data notes that over 1 million Americans have died from drug-related poisonings since 1999. Fentanyl-related poisonings alone accounted for a devastating two-thirds of the 106,699 total drug-related deaths that occurred in 2021, based on NIH data.”

According to the State Department, “Illicit fentanyl shipments directly shipped to the United States via air cargo, international mail, and express consignment are high-purity, low-weight shipments destined for criminal groups or individuals in the United States. Most originate in China with suppliers who use international mail consolidators to mask the origin of the shipments.”

“Due to the magnitude of this problem and the devastating impact it is having on American families and communities, we are requesting that your Administration take the immediate steps necessary to block the continued use of Section 321 as a black-market entry point for these deadly drugs,” the letter concludes. “Specifically, we request that you delink e-commerce transactions from Section 321 privileges since that is the vehicle used to facilitate these deadly packages. For the sake of protecting Americans from unwittingly being exposed to these harmful substances and aiding the law enforcement officers who work tirelessly to protect them, we urge you to reform this trade provision that is so substantially contributing to the current fentanyl crisis.”

Earlier this year, CPA’s Economics Team released a new analysis that estimates de minimis imports from China hit $188 billion last year. The uncounted imports increase the actual 2022 U.S. goods trade deficit by 16% from $1.19 trillion to $1.38 trillion, representing some 8.3 million lost U.S. jobs. Last November, CPA urged CBP to issue a public correction of de minimis shipments after it released false government statistics.

There are multiple bipartisan bills before Congress that would serve as an urgent tourniquet by prohibiting de minimis shipments directly from China. U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Neal Dunn (R-FL) were joined by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) in introducing the Import Security and Fairness Act to stop China and Russia from exploiting the de minimis threshold and require Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect more information on de minimis shipments. This bill was included in the trade title of the House China bill that passed in February 2022.

Senators Bill Cassidy, (R-LA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and JD Vance (R-OH) introduced the De Minimis Reciprocity Act of 2023 which will limit the damage from the increasingly notorious de minimis loophole that enables foreign vendors anywhere in the world to ship into the United States without submitting to basic customs declarations or paying the duties U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers are required to pay.


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