Over the past year, the escalating chaos at the southern border has raised concerns from the public. And rightfully so, as the current border crisis has led to a record number of illegal alien encounters and has resulted in adverse consequences for the American people. This crisis has also drawn attention to the flood of deadly drugs, particularly synthetic opioids, being trafficked at the U.S.-Mexico border and causing irreparable damage to communities across the country.
The Commission on Combatting Synthetic Opioid Trafficking recently published a report on the illicit flow of synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, into the United States. Fentanyl is a highly addictive and deadly narcotic that claims thousands of lives each year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 64,000 Americans died from a fentanyl overdose between April 2020 and April 2021. The bipartisan commission shed light on the extent to which Mexican and Chinese crime syndicates are taking advantage of the southern border to traffic this poison into the U.S.
According to the report, since 2019, Mexico has been a primary source of manufacturing and trafficking fentanyl to the U.S. Drug cartels manufacture the deadly opioid in clandestine labs across Mexico with precursor chemicals primarily sourced by criminal organizations based out of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Moreover, some criminal groups from the PRC have taken their illicit enterprises a step further by establishing shell companies in Mexico’s chemical sector, allowing these bad actors to conceal their identities and shipments of the ingredients contained in fentanyl. This partnership between Mexican and Chinese criminal elements rightly warrants concern.
The report also notes the Southwest border is the primary route by which fentanyl is smuggled into the U.S. In Fiscal Year 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized more than 11,000 pounds of fentanyl at the southern border, surpassing the seizure totals of the past three years. Many more times that amount likely crossed the border successfully.
In response to this alarming release, 16 attorneys general sent a letter to the State Department urging it to take action on the thousands of lives being lost due to the prevalence of fentanyl. Additionally, the attorneys general urged the Biden administration to garner better cooperation from the Chinese and Mexican governments in preventing the production and transportation of these toxic drugs in their respective nations.
Some of the commission’s recommendations to stem the flow of illicit drugs include adding technological improvements to the border. While enhanced screening measures at entry points would undoubtedly allow more illegal narcotics to be intercepted, finishing the physical barrier would also be beneficial. A complete border wall would prevent drug traffickers from taking advantage of exposed portions of the border and divert smugglers to points of entry, where there is a greater chance CBP officials would detect them.
The Biden administration needs to do more to ensure that China and Mexico do their part to combat the production and smuggling of illicit drugs. The mounting deaths from fentanyl and other lethal drugs should be reason alone to ensure our home front is secure. Otherwise, more American lives will be needlessly lost.