Political Editors / November 10, 2021

In Brief: Migrant Surge Fuels Overdose Deaths

Americans are dying by the tens of thousands, and it’s due in part to the border crisis.

Joe Biden’s border crisis has been deadly, not just for migrants but for the estimated 93,331 Americans who’ve died of a drug overdose in the last year, an all-time high. Vince Bielski at RealClearInvestigations says the border crisis is largely to blame, though, to be fair, it started a few years before Biden took charge.

Nearly five times the murder rate, the deadly overdose toll was primarily caused by fentanyl, a highly lethal synthetic opioid. It’s manufactured mostly by Mexican cartels with ingredients imported from China, and then smuggled over the southwestern U.S. border. Fentanyl has been arriving in larger quantities each year since at least 2016.

The cartels are taking advantage of law enforcement weaknesses and policy failures to smuggle record amounts of the lethal drug into the United States, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former drug and immigration agents. While a lack of screening technology to find contraband at ports of entry and an inept U.S-Mexico campaign to cripple the cartels are longstanding issues, there’s also a new one: the flood of migrants across the border that the Biden administration has done little to stop.

Former law enforcement officials say the cartels are orchestrating the surge, overwhelming the capacity of agents to pursue drug smugglers. They can freely enter Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California carrying fentanyl while agents are diverted to the time-consuming duty of apprehending and processing migrants.

Frustrated border agents and their union have been calling on Congress to send reinforcements. But help is not on the way. The administration’s upcoming budget request doesn’t include funding for more Customs and Border Protection agents.

In fact, Biden and his “border czar,” Kamala Harris, spent September demonizing Border Patrol agents on horseback. Obviously, enforcement isn’t in the cards, so what is Biden actually doing?

The administration is pivoting away from law enforcement and embracing a public health approach to the fentanyl crisis. It has proposed spending $11.2 billion — a huge increase over last year — to expand substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services. Fewer addicts would mean fewer deaths from fentanyl.

But curbing opioid addiction is very challenging. The vast majority of substance abusers avoid treatment, according to researchers, and only about one-third of those receiving long-term medical care fully recover. These success stories, however, will be offset if the supply of fentanyl continues to boom and fuel more addiction.

The reason for the uptick in a deadly drug is simple: It’s cheaper to produce and thus “more profitable than heroin.” Fentanyl is then laced with other drugs or sold as counterfeit prescription medication to increase addition.

Fentanyl’s potency — at 50 times the strength of heroin — is what makes it so deadly. Two milligrams, which can fit on the tip of a pencil, can kill. But cartels don’t take precautions to make sure the pills aren’t lethal. DEA analysis found that 40% of the seized pills had a potentially deadly dose.

Bielski’s report is lengthy, and he digs into the various components of a very complex issue. As long as enforcement is hampered, he says, the problem will continue:

More fentanyl smuggled into the U.S. means more deaths. Triana, the DEA special agent, estimates that the number of overdose fatalities this year will either be on par with or exceed 2020’s.

Read the whole thing here.

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