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Gavin Newsom doubles Cal Guard deployment to counter fentanyl trafficking

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(The Center Square) – California Governor Gavin Newsom announced he will more than double the California National Guard’s (Cal Guard) Counter Drug Taskforce operations statewide, including at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The operation will now have 392 service members, up from 155, according to Newsom’s office.

“Our top priority is the safety of our communities statewide,” Newsom said in a statement. “By working with state, local, and federal partners to take down transnational organizations and the illegal drugs they attempt to bring into our state, the state’s Counter Drug Taskforce is making a profound difference to hold smugglers accountable and take deadly drugs off our streets.”

CalGuard Major General Matthew Beevers said that, with the initial success of this program, it makes sense to expand it.

“Beginning in 2022, the CalGuard’s Counter Drug Taskforce deployed 30 servicemembers to the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Tecate, and Calexico Ports of Entry to support our federal partners,” Beevers said. “Due to significant initial success, in 2023, we doubled our force across those Ports of Entry. Under Governor Newsom’s leadership and broad Congressional support, our Counter Drug Taskforce has grown from 155 full-time servicemembers to 392 today.”

The task force gathers information to interdict illegal narcotics trafficking, uses air and ground assets to build criminal investigations, and supports border patrol agents at ports of entry to stop illegal narcotics trafficking.

In May 2024, Newsom announced that CalGuard operations helped seize 5.8 million pills containing fentanyl so far this year alone.

Last year, Newsom increased the number of CalGuard service members deployed to interdict drugs at U.S. ports of entry along the border by about 50%. The CalGuard operations in 2023 helped seize 62,224 pounds of fentanyl in 2023 — a 1066% compared to 2021.

“CalGuard’s coordinated drug interdiction efforts in the state are funded in part by California’s $30 million investment to expand CalGuard’s work to prevent drug trafficking by transnational criminal organizations and support from the Biden-Harris Administration to address humanitarian and security efforts,” a release said.

Most of the fentanyl smuggled into the U.S. at legal ports of entry comes from U.S. citizens, not asylum-seeking migrants, the release said.

Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, contribute to almost 70% of drug overdose deaths in California, according to the governor’s office.

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