Remarks by ONDCP Deputy Director for Supply Reduction Marilyn Quagliotti at the Fostering a New Era of U.S.-Mexico Collaboration to Meet 21st Century Border Security Conference in El Paso, Texas
Remarks as Prepared
Good afternoon. My name is Marilyn Quagliotti and I am the Deputy Director for Supply Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. I’m happy to have the opportunity to be here today.
Before I begin, I’d like to take a moment to thank Congressman Reyes for his work to bring us all together. As a former Border Patrol agent, he knows firsthand the challenges we face in securing our Southwest border. He also recognizes – as we do – that our Nation’s border communities represent some of the best of what America has to offer. Cities like El Paso are not only unique in their culture and heritage – but they’re also key players in today’s global and interconnected economy.
I’m pleased there is an entire session at this conference devoted to building resilient communities. As we all know, drug use and its consequences are a tremendous burden to our communities and touch every sector of our society - from small businesses along our border cities, to our state criminal justice systems and our health care system. In fact, new research shows that drug use in America cost our economy more than $193 billion in 2007 – the latest year for which data is available. Drugs and crime are also inexorably linked. In fact, according to new data, a majority of adult men arrested in a sampling of 10 cities tested positive for illegal drugs at the time of arrest, highlighting the need to break the cycle of drug use, arrest, incarceration, release, and re-arrest.
To address the threat drugs pose on El Paso and in communities across our hemisphere, President Obama has made clear that reducing drug use and its consequences must balance efforts to stem both the supply and demand for drugs. This is a fundamental shift in how we approach drug policy in America. We know that one of the most powerful tools we have against the horrific cartel violence is preventing drug use before it starts. Doing so weakens one of the main markets from which these criminals profit. And we know this approach works. Research shows that those who reach the age of 21 without developing and addiction to drugs are unlikely to do so later in life.
To support this new public health emphasis on drug control, the Presidents National Drug control Strategy places unprecedented emphasis on prevention and treatment. Our Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy –also released last month – will work hand in hand with this National Strategy. For the first time, the Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy outlines significant support for promoting resilient communities along the border by preventing drug use before it starts, expanding access to drug treatment, and supporting innovative criminal justice programs that help break the cycle of drug use and crime in our communities.
Reducing the demand for illegal drugs is not a unilateral effort. Both the United States and Mexico have acknowledged that reducing the shared threat of drug consumption - which includes Mexico’s growing drug use problem - and trafficking are a co-responsibility. That is why earlier this summer, ONDCP brought together drug demand experts from both the U.S. and Mexico as part of the U.S. Mexico Binational Conference on Drug Demand Reduction.
Strong and resilient communities are those in which the drug culture does not thrive. We are dedicated, as is Mexico, to strengthening the rule of law, and assuring the capacity of the government to guarantee public order. We are helping Mexico to strengthen law enforcement institutions through training and equipment in the Merida Initiative. Mexico is engaged in broad reform of its judicial and criminal justice systems. As the Merida Initiative continues, we will see an increasing emphasis on training and state and local programs, over the initial emphasis on equipment.
At the local level, designing programs for the creation of strong and resilient communities requires a deep understanding of the unique conditions in each city and community. A key to success is tapping the knowledge in El Paso and San Diego, and the other communities on the Southwest border, as to what is needed and how programs should be organized.
We know communities can successfully mobilize to identify, plan, direct resources, and undertake effective action to protect public health and safety. Already, various Federal, state, local, and tribal programs like drug courts and drug free community coalitions are in place and are building stronger border communities. And we stand ready to support the expansion of these efforts. In fact, this year alone, we have dedicated over $10 billion to programs geared toward preventing drug use and expanding access to drug treatment for those struggling with the disease of addiction. These innovative programs are a vital complement to the unprecedented amounts of manpower, technology, and infrastructure we have already deployed to secure the Southwest border.
Thank you again for inviting me to participate in this important conference. Your experience, expertise, and valuable insight into the unique challenges and opportunities along the Southwest border will help us continue to build resilient communities. I look forward to hearing from the rest of the panel, and look forward to any questions at the end.