Newsom adds National Guard members to border security detail

The increase is intended to help combat the flow of fentanyl and other drugs into the United States

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Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that the number of California National Guard service members deployed at four ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border will be increased in order to combat the flow of fentanyl and other drugs into the United States.

The number of CalGuard service members will be increased by 50% — from 40 to 60 soldiers — at ports of entry that include San Ysidro and Otay Mesa in San Diego County.

The governor's office said the expanded CalGuard presence would support U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in their efforts to detect drugs.

"Fentanyl is a deadly poison ripping families and communities apart," Newsom said in a statement. "California is cracking down -- and today, we're going further by deploying more CalGuard service members to combat this crisis and keep our communities safe."

As of July 1, the California National Guard has assisted in the seizure of more than 11,760 pounds of fentanyl this year, according to the governor's office, which said a prior expansion of CalGuard operations led to a 594% increase in fentanyl seizures across California last year. Newsom's office said CalGuard-supported efforts led to 28,765 pounds of fentanyl seized across the state in 2022.

Newsom’s announcement attempts to address the supply side of the fight against opioid trafficking, but the demand side needs more resources, too, according to Gretchen Burns Bergman with a New Path.

The nonprofit organization advocates “for therapeutic rather than punitive drug policies.” 

“It could be increasing drug war violence by doing that and take the focus away from the therapeutic services that we need,” said Bergman. “We need to treat people, meet people where they are and then offer them the services they need. Sometimes that’s treatment and sometimes it’s housing first. So there’s a whole community of services that we need in order to address the problem.”

Examples of the work include supplying more than 3,000 Narcan kits to the community, and support for safe syringe services.

NBC 7 has reached out to Customs and Border Protection San Diego Sector for comment and more detail regarding the effects it will have on local ports of entry and has not immediately heard back.

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