Over 100,000 deaths from drug overdoses occurred in the United States between April of 2020 and April of this year. Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were responsible for nearly two-thirds of those deaths. Altogether, drug overdoses have now killed twice as many people as car accidents and gun violence combined. A crisis of this magnitude demands swift attention and effective action.

For starters, it must be recognized that the source of this crisis is the porousness of America’s southern border, where the Border Patrol has seized over 2.5 million pounds of illicit drugs over the past four years. Although drug seizures overall are down in 2021, this is not a reason for celebration. In fact, there is cause for even greater concern. While border apprehensions are nearly four times as high as they were in 2020, the amount of illicit drugs seized is only 75% of the total amount from the previous year. However, it is not solely the total amount of drugs flowing into our country that creates a crisis, but the extremely deadly nature of one in particular: fentanyl. Given the rise in deaths from overdoses and the role that fentanyl has played in this epidemic, it is extremely concerning to realize that the Border Patrol has seized more fentanyl this year than the past three years combined, enough to potentially kill 2.4 billion people.

The truth is that Customs and Border Patrol agents are so overwhelmed by this year’s massive influx of migrants that they cannot fulfill one of their most vital functions in interdicting deadlier-than-ever quantities of illicit drugs. Mexican drug cartels know the Border Patrol is overwhelmed and they are using this fact to their advantage. According to former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge and TPPF Border Security Coalition member Derek Maltz, the Mexican cartels deliberately use and manipulate migrant crossings to distract Border Patrol agents, giving the cartels free access to vulnerable spots along the border. Former Border Patrol Chief and TPPF Distinguished Senior Fellow in Border Security Rodney Scott agrees, warning that these entries are being “scripted and controlled” by criminal organizations to make “controllable gaps in border security.” This deadly drug crisis cannot be dealt with without reducing the record-breaking flow of migrants across the southern border and allowing the Border Patrol to do its job properly and apprehend smugglers.

Maltz supports several practical ways to rebuild U.S. border security, including reinstating the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), continuing construction of the modern border wall system that was begun during the Trump administration and encouraging bold state action. The MPP requires individuals who are crossing through Mexico in order to apply for asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico while their claims are being processed. Were the Biden administration to fully implement the MPP instead of trying to get rid of them, the migrant flow towards the border would quickly and dramatically fall, as occurred when they were first implemented in 2019. Border wall construction was also stopped by the Biden administration, even though for years federal border security authorities have made it clear that walls and barriers are an essential part of securing the border.

The last way to secure the border is also currently extremely important: state action. When the federal government refuses to fulfill its obligation to protect the nation’s territorial integrity and the safety of its citizens, the states must step up to do so. This year, the Texas Legislature approved approximately $3 billion in emergency funding to fill the border security gap left by the federal government, and continue construction on the border wall. In a recent policy brief that examines  the options the states have to end the ongoing border crisis, former Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli specifically calls on the states to make unprecedented use their constitutional authority to repel invasion. This authority, which by its very nature supersedes federal statute, empowers states to act to thwart an invasion or “such imminent Danger as will not admit delay.”

Though the Biden administration can be expected to do everything within its power to impede such state actions, there is ample reason to believe the position of Texas and other states will ultimately be upheld by the United States Supreme Court.  In fact, this is the very outcome experts in a TPPF border crisis simulation predicted when envisioning how the Biden border crisis would play out last December, before it even began. To quote the heart of the projected Supreme Court decision on the matter, “Texas finds itself in imminent danger by the United States decision to both encourage and allow a surge of illegal aliens and goods across its borders. Their response is both constitutionally permitted and a just exercise of their powers. Texas seeks to protect its sovereignty, and such action is not in contradiction of federal law. Texas is not seeking to make any revision of federal immigration law; instead it is securing its territory as is its prerogative as a sovereign State.”

In sum, in order to effectively fight what is shaping up to be the deadliest illicit drug crisis in American history, the ongoing, record-breaking mass migration across America’s southern border must be stopped in its tracks. Reinstating the Migrant Protection Protocols, continuing construction of the modern border wall system and states taking decisive action to stem the flow are all viable measures that will dramatically reduce the mounting pressure at the border, allow the Border Patrol to do its job, protect our communities from illegal drugs and save thousands of lives. If nothing is done then this crisis will only grow worse, causing addiction and deaths from overdoses to rise even higher. The safety of the nation, our states and countless American citizens are in grave danger if this crisis continues unabated and effective actions are not taken to stop it.