Duarte introduces bill to fight fentanyl traffickers 

Lieutenant Raymond Framstad of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office shakes hands with Congressman John Duarte during the announcement of a new effort to combat the spread of fentanyl and other drugs in the Central Valley and beyond.

U.S. Rep. John Duarte, who represents Merced County in Congressional District 13, along with Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) have introduced a bill to combat fentanyl and other drugs in the Central Valley and across America. The bill has bipartisan support from across the nation, and includes the support of Congress members Elissa Slotkin, Henry Cuellar, Greg Pence and Gabe Vasquez.

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Reauthorization Act is designed to provide more than $300 million annually to help stop the spread of fentanyl and other illicit drugs in the Central Valley and across the United States.

“The valley, like many communities across our country, has been devastated by the fentanyl and drug epidemic in the United States,” Duarte said during an announcement of Feb. 2. “Throughout our district, I’ve seen the toll it’s taken on families, children, and our law enforcement. That is why I am proud to introduce this bill to provide both financial support to help law enforcement get these drugs off our streets and judicial resources to put drug traffickers behind bars.”

For Americans aged 18 to 45, fentanyl is considered the leading cause of death, and in 2023 alone, approximately 112,000 Americans died from this drug. Additionally, children and young adults are becoming more impacted.

“Protecting our communities from illegal drugs is not a political issue,” Duarte pointed out. “That is why the HIDTA Reauthorization bill is supported by both Republican and Democrats, as well as local law enforcement officials. I look forward to working to advance this bill in the House.”

The proposal would extend a program from the late 1990s that facilitates federal, state and local law enforcement to work together on drug cases.

  • Duarte’s bill reauthorizes the HIDTA Program at $302 million annually through 2030, which is a $22 million annual increase;
  • The bill creates a new grant program within the HIDTA program that individual HIDTAs can apply for to enhance fentanyl seizure and interdiction activities;
  • It requires reporting on coordination between law enforcement and immigration authorities to crack down on international drug cartels; and
  • And the bill directs the U.S. Attorney General to assign not less than 16 assistant United States attorneys to individual HIDTAs, at a HIDTA’s request, to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of organizations and individuals trafficking fentanyl to ensure that these criminals are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“The Central Valley HIDTA has seized 8,800 pounds of methamphetamine in the last year,” said Jeff Dirkse, the sheriff of Stanislaus County. “Over 900 pounds of cocaine, 321 pounds of powdered fentanyl, and over 4.1 million doses of pills of fentanyl. Of the 4.1 million pills of fentanyl pills, 60 to 70 percent have a fatal level of fentanyl in them. This is a massive impact on our community. In Stanislaus County alone, we seized 58 pounds of powdered fentanyl which is enough to wipe out half of the United States.

“As a sheriff, everything comes down resources. This funding for the HIDTAs provides us the resources to go after these dealers to keep our communities safer.”

Merced County
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