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March 22, 2023Washington, DC, United StatesNarcotics

Operation Blue Lotus stops more than 900 pounds of fentanyl from entering US in first week

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that Operation Blue Lotus, a new and coordinated surge operation targeting fentanyl smuggling, has stopped more than 900 pounds of the drug from entering the United States during its first week.

Led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with coordinated efforts between federal, state, tribal and local partners, DHS is investing additional personnel, technology and other resources along the Southwest border to detect and seize this dangerous drug at and between ports of entry.

“This is one of many efforts HSI is taking alongside partners as part of an overarching strategy to combat illegal drugs like fentanyl,” said ICE’s Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae D. Johnson. “We continue to seize record quantities of narcotics and will continue to use dynamic approaches to stem the flow of deadly substances within our borders.”

Since its launch on March 13, 2023, Operation Blue Lotus has led to 18 seizures, 16 federal arrests and two state arrests. Those seizures prevented over 900 pounds of fentanyl, over 700 pounds of methamphetamines and over 100 pounds of cocaine from entering the United States through March 19.

“This Administration has a multi-pronged strategy to combat the scourge of fentanyl that is devastating communities across the United States, and the Department of Homeland Security works every day to prevent it from coming across our border. In the past two years, DHS has seized more fentanyl than the previous five years combined. But we must do more,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Operation Blue Lotus is a DHS-led, coordinated surge effort to curtail the flow of illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States from Mexico and bring to justice the dangerous criminal organizations profiting from the illegal production, distribution and sale of this dangerous substance.”

The operation includes increases in targeted inspections conducted by HSI agents and CBP officers, canine units, and advanced technology along the border. Intelligence gained through Operation Blue Lotus will enhance the targeting of drug traffickers at the border. The operation is designed to help build criminal cases against the transnational criminal organizations behind the networks and facilitators dealing in this deadly substance.

Operation Blue Lotus leverages advanced analytics and intelligence capabilities at HSI and CBP. It includes the deployment of HSI personnel with CBP officers at ports of entry so they can immediately pursue investigations as contraband is discovered to expose the networks. CBP’s Forward Operating Labs at ports of entry conduct real-time analyses of unknown substances, enabling DHS to target, identify and examine unknown powders, pills, crystalline substances and organic materials for hard narcotics, precursor chemicals and components associated with the manufacturing or processing of synthetic drugs. In turn, investigations can proceed faster.

“CBP is on the front line of stopping fentanyl and other illegal narcotics that are primarily trafficked through ports of entry,” said CBP acting Commissioner Troy Miller. “Our dedicated personnel are already seizing record amounts of fentanyl, and we continue to make the interdiction of cross border smuggling one of our top priorities.”

Operation Blue Lotus builds on a tremendous amount of work already ongoing, such as the following:

  • DHS has initiated major investigative and enforcement operations targeting fentanyl, its chemical precursors and the supply chain.
  • HSI and CBP previously established Border Enforcement Security Taskforce units at CBP’s international mail facilities, express consignment hubs, land border ports of entry and international airports.
  • DHS investment in nonintrusive inspection technology, including the deployment of Multi-Energy Portal systems in cargo environments, is significantly expanding the agency’s ability to screen traffic through ports of entry.

Drug cartels have been trafficking in fentanyl for years, and DHS is bringing unprecedented force to its fight against them. In the past two years, DHS has seized more fentanyl than it did in the previous five years combined; in that time, it also arrested more people for crimes related to fentanyl and precursors chemicals than it did in the previous five years combined.

DHS is matching unprecedented challenges with unprecedented solutions to secure the border. Operation Blue Lotus is an example of how DHS surges resources and increases efficiency, prioritizing smart border security solutions, and works with federal, state, tribal and local partners.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.