Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, is introducing a bill that would allow civilians to seek justice from “persons, entities, or countries that knowingly or recklessly contribute” to the trafficking of fentanyl.
The ‘‘Justice Against Sponsors of Illicit Fentanyl Act of 2023’’ would provide victims of the fentanyl crisis “full access to the court system” to pursue civil claims against fentanyl traffickers and enablers, according to the bill text.
The fentanyl crisis kills nearly 200 Americans every day, according to the Department of Justice. Despite evidence that the People’s Republic of China is the primary manufacturing source for illegal fentanyl, there is no venue for Americans to take on legal claims against the communist regime.
The bill states that those who participate in fentanyl trafficking should also “should reasonably anticipate being brought to court in the United States to answer for that conduct.”
“This legislation is a vital step toward holding nations accountable for their role in enabling the trafficking of fentanyl into our country,” said Gooden. “By providing victims and their families the ability to bring suit against foreign actors, we are sending a clear message that the United States will not tolerate any nation that contributes to this devastating drug crisis.”
The production of America’s number one killer — fentanyl — often begins in China, with creation of the drug’s precursor chemicals. Then, those chemicals are shipped to Mexico where fentanyl is manufactured and subsequently distributed primarily by the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels.
“A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States in any case in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for physical injury to person or property or death occurring in the United States,” the bill states.
“These precursor chemicals from companies within the PRC [People’s Republic of China] are the foundation of the fentanyl,” said DEA administrator Anne Milgram during a February Senate hearing. “The use of CMLOs [Chinese Money Laundering Organizations] by the cartels simplifies the money laundering process and streamlines the purchase of precursor chemicals utilized in manufacturing drugs.”
“The scheme involves the largest banks in China, which are also the largest banks in the world,” according to congressional testimony from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Wednesday. “While the Biden administration is focused on combating U.S. demand for drugs and the export of fentanyl precursors from China, it has not tackled the problem of the Chinese financial sector’s role in laundering the proceeds from drug sales that kill over 100,000 Americans each year.”
The bill says that illicit fentanyl trafficking “threatens the safety and health of nationals of the United States” as well as America’s “national security, foreign policy and economy.”
Nearly 14,000 pounds of illegal fentanyl were seized by authorities from March 2022 through 2023, according to Customs and Border Protection. A person can overdose on fentanyl after taking as little as 2 milligrams — that is the equivalent of a packet of Sweet-N-Low divided by 500.
As a result of the fentanyl epidemic, overdose deaths in the United States are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States among adults 18 to 45 years old.