Advance Electronic Security Data Remains Key to Stopping Dangerous Shipments from Abroad

Amid federal efforts to strengthen U.S. border security, vulnerabilities in the global postal system remain, fueling the influx of deadly drugs and counterfeit goods from abroad

Washington, D.C. (February 28, 2019) – As the Trump Administration and Congress announce new efforts to secure America’s borders, experts agree that Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Service must enforce the requirement of advance electronic data (AED) on all inbound international packages – as mandated by the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act – to stop the flow of drugs and dangerous counterfeit goods from abroad.

As POLITICO recently reported, China ships nearly 1.6 million pieces of mail to the United States every day, and many small packages contain illicit fentanyl – the deadly synthetic opioid driving the opioid crisis which killed nearly 50,000 Americans in 2017 alone. While the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has been cautious about estimating how much fentanyl comes to the U.S. from China each year, shipments to the U.S. have risen steadily, and currently account for 88 percent of all inbound international mail volume to the United States.

Lawmakers and federal law enforcement agents agree that requiring AED on all inbound international packages is crucial to stopping the flow of opioids and hazardous goods into the United States. This consensus drove widespread bipartisan and bicameral support for the STOP Act, which President Trump signed into law in late 2018. Enacted as part of a broader opioids package, the STOP Act mandates the U.S. Postal Service receive AED on at least 70 percent of all inbound international packages and 100 percent of packages shipped to the U.S. from China, as of December 31, 2018.  

“The safety and security of American families has always been my top priority,” said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to Americans for Securing All Packages. “Our lawmakers have taken important steps to address America’s opioid crisis, but to stop this devastation there’s so much more we must do. Illicit fentanyl comes through the mail from China every day and the resulting death and destruction is seen in headlines across the nation. It’s time we enforce the STOP Act and stop these deadly poisons from destroying our families.”

As the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General recently identified postal networks as the preferred shipping method for drug trafficking into the U.S., and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said, “much of the fentanyl is still coming from China through the mail,” as reported by the Associated Press, it is evident that much work remains. “With nearly half a billion international mail shipments each year, the need for advance electronic data is critical for CBP,” said a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson in a recent interview with POLITICO.

Steps have been taken to implement the STOP Act since it was signed into law in October, but questions regarding the timeliness and effectiveness of its enforcement remain, particularly as few details have been made public by the federal agencies tasked with its implementation.

In November 2018, China enacted a mandate to include AED on all inbound and outbound international packages processed by China Post, and in recent weeks President Trump applauded President Xi for his promise to crack on Chinese drug traffickers. However, national security experts believe much work remains, as the United States cannot rely on China to keep Americans safe. 

Federal law enforcement and the U.S. Postal Service must work diligently to ensure the STOP Act is enforced to the fullest extent, and that AED on packages shipped from China is accurate and complete. CBP and the U.S. Postal Service must ensure the information provided by China Post is comprehensive and sufficient to effectively keep deadly materials out of our country.