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Fentanyl: We Need to Secure Our Southern Border

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This article first appeared in New English Review.

One of our close family members is a drug and alcohol counselor. In the past two years, she has seen three people she knew die from fentanyl overdoses, the last one just days ago. Another was an old high school friend who died recently in San Francisco. For those of you not familiar with fentanyl, it is a synthetically produced opioid. There is legitimately produced fentanyl used primarily for purposes of anesthesia. Produced illicitly, it becomes a highly potent street drug, many times stronger than heroin and mixed with other drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and pills to produce a stronger effect. It is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is so potent that it is deadly.

When I was working with DEA in Pittsburgh from 1987-1990, we worked on a major fentanyl case in concert with the Pittsburgh PD. After 13 addicts died from injecting fentanyl, which they thought was “China white” heroin, we were finally able to take down the distributor and identify the chemist. I previously posted an article on this episode which can be read here. (I apologize for the brief humor at the end of the post because I am reposting it today in a spirit of sadness and outrage.) 

That was in 1989. Now the problem is much worse. Since 2015, over 200,000 people in our country have died from fentanyl overdoses.

Fentanyl today (or its precursors) is primarily produced in China and smuggled to Mexico from where the drug cartels smuggle it into the US. (Like virtually all drug trafficking patterns, this is subject to change.)

This leads me to my main point. Given that most illicit fentanyl is produced in China and smuggled to the US via Mexico by the Mexican cartels, and given the incredible number of American deaths involved, would that not be enough reason in itself to control our border? No brainer, right? Wrong.

Instead, the Biden administration and its feckless director of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, refuse to take any meaningful action. Basically, our southern border is wide open. Former President Trump’s border wall has been discontinued, and now illegal migrants have become “asylum-seekers”. They don’t have to sneak across our border anymore and try to make their way to wherever their destination is. All they have to do now is seek out the nearest Border Patrol officer and claim political asylum. Now they are being processed and released with an order to report to an immigration court in 6 months or so-which they ignore. Now, the Border Patrol is putting them on planes and flying them to various points across the US in the dead of night, releasing them. From there, they just disappear. 

Meanwhile, people like Mayorkas, Biden, Vice President Harris (our “border czar”), and White House press spokesperson Karina Jean-Pierre insist with a straight face that our border has never been more secure. Secure for whom, illegal migrants, human smugglers, and drug smugglers?

Their denials would be laughable were it not for the tragic results of this lax border policy. American youth are dying from fentanyl overdoses by the tens of thousands every year. They are mostly young people. Yes, they are addicts, but they are human beings. Our own government is acting like it doesn’t care. It is disgraceful and borders on criminal negligence.

We need a government that will stand up to China and its economic stranglehold over the US. Chinese imports need to be drastically reduced for many reasons. That includes legal imports, to say nothing of cracking down on the fentanyl traffic. We need a government that will secure our borders and protect the American people from cartels, gangs, drugs, and terrorists from countries in the far-away Middle East, Afghanistan, or wherever they are coming from. And make no mistake; unidentified people from the above regions are now using Mexico as a transit stop to enter the US. It is not just Mexicans or Central Americans trying to cross our border with Mexico.

As I have said many times; I fully understand the reasons desperately poor Mexicans and Central Americans try to come here illegally. I lay the blame on those countries that do nothing to provide their poor people with education and opportunities. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the criminal elements who are part of this wave. The fentanyl crisis should be the last straw. It appears that China and Mexico are both unable and/or unwilling to stop the flow of fentanyl into the US. A change in diplomatic and economic relations should follow. More than ever, our southern border should be secured. That means completing the wall and letting our now demoralized Border Patrol and Customs Enforcement agents do their job of stopping illegal immigration and drug smuggling. However, it is clear that it won’t happen under Biden. 


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