A 13-year-old child in Connecticut collapsed during gym class and was rushed to the hospital; he died two days later of what doctors concluded was a fentanyl overdose. Two other students at the school were also rushed to the hospital over similar concerns. When school officials investigated, they found 40 bags of powdered fentanyl hidden throughout the middle school.
In the United States, synthetic opioids are the primary driver of drug overdose deaths. Between June 2020 and May 2021, fentanyl and synthetic opioids accounted for nearly two-thirds of more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Originally developed for pharmaceutical purposes, fentanyl is now being illicitly laced within pills as well as disguised as highly potent heroin. Four out of every 10 fake pills with fentanyl contain a potentially deadly dose. Two milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose.
One country is taking over the production of fentanyl: Mexico.
Mexican cartels that once ran marijuana and opium have shifted with the market and are now importing fentanyl from China and pressing it into pills and other drugs. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, cartels are increasingly building huge, industrial-scale labs to churn out synthetic drugs.
The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that cartels mass produce the pills in Mexico to make them appear as oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet and Adderall and then they market them in the U.S. as pharmaceuticals. Drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram. One kilogram has the potential to kill 500,000 people.
During Fiscal Year 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers at eight South Texas ports of entry noted a 1,066% increase in fentanyl seizures, totaling 588 pounds. This spike occurred during a significant decrease in international travel due do COVID-19 travel restrictions.
In the same amount of time, Texas law enforcement authorities seized enough fentanyl to make up more than 36.2 million lethal doses.
While such amounts are astonishing, the truth is that U.S. officials have no way of knowing how much has entered into the country without detection.
That’s because the cartels are essentially in charge of the U.S.-Mexico border. People and contraband that enter the United States via Mexico illegally do so with strategic and careful planning by Mexican organized crime, and someone always profits.
When large groups of people illegally cross the border at once, Border Patrol agents are forced to send all of their resources to one area, freeing up other areas for cartels to send through drugs, weapons, and criminal illegal immigrants.
Neither the fentanyl crisis nor the border crisis are new. But both are worsened under the disastrous policies of the Biden administration.
The Department of Homeland Security knows that the policies of the Biden administration are inflaming the border crisis, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged to Border Patrol agents that those policies “are not particularly popular with CBP… but that’s the reality.”
The reality is that the U.S. has lost control of the border, and if we continue to stand idly by, every state will continue to see an increase in fentanyl-related medical emergencies and deaths.
Fentanyl overdoses have become the No. 1 cause of death among U.S. adults ages 18-45. Overdoses have soared in America’s youth so much so that some public schools are now requiring nurses to stock naloxone—or Narcan—for potential fentanyl overdoses.
Criminal organizations are in the business of making money by defeating our security and they work at it full time—and so should we. The U.S. can go on the offensive in defeating the fentanyl crisis, but the federal government must be willing to take the lead.
In Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety is working overtime to intercept human and drug smuggling. While it has worked mightily, CBP must be allowed to do its job—and that job is to stop illegal entry into the U.S.
Personnel are the most valuable resource that CBP has, though infrastructure and technology improve the effectiveness and efficiency of each individual officer and agent. The federal government should not decrease the amount of agents in the field, nor should it continue to block the construction of physical infrastructure—the wall—along the border.
Enforcing the Migrant Protection Protocols, returning to the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with all three Northern Triangle countries, and loosening restrictions concerning ICE’s enforcement authorities are just a few of the things the federal government could start doing to make a dent in the illicit drugs streaming in from Mexico.
Nothing that crosses the border stays at the border. The federal government is responsible for securing America’s borders, and it has failed.