by Erin Dwinell
The Left refuses to connect the dots between the fentanyl and border crises because it would require acknowledging that we have an open border.
The truth of the matter is that the border crisis and fentanyl problem in America are directly related.
Drug overdose or poisoning is the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. Nearly 70% of those deaths are due to opioids, including fentanyl.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says that the large majority of the drug is sourced from China and trafficked into the U.S. by the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels. We have seen record high illegal border crossings since President Joe Biden came into office, and the DEA says it seized enough deadly fentanyl in 2022 to kill every American.
Rebecca Kiessling is a Michigan mom who knows this pain all too well. She lost two sons to fentanyl poisoning in 2020. At a congressional hearing on the border crisis last week, she fearlessly advocated for her sons and the hundreds of thousands of families devasted by the fentanyl and border crises.
The president responded to the hearing by attacking Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., for her pertinent questions and statements that day and insulting Kiessling by making light of her situation.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new trend.
For the last two years, the Left has shifted blame and ignored real solutions that would help fight the drug crisis through increased border security.
Instead of acknowledging the fentanyl crisis, let alone working with their colleagues to truly solve it, the Left in Congress accuses Republicans of racism and bigotry when they talk of securing the southern border, even claiming that Republicans use hearings to “amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories.”
Kiessling’s testimony was a passionate, human reminder of why the border crisis really matters and how it connects to the fentanyl crisis, national security, and American lives. She said, “This is a war. Act like it. Do something.”
Gut-wrenching opening statement from Rebecca Kiessling, who lost two sons to fentanyl poisoning, at border hearing:
"You talk about children being taken away from their parents. My children were taken away from me…It’s not about race, fentanyl doesn’t care about race." pic.twitter.com/Kgn4rGvgTg
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) February 28, 2023
During the same hearing, David Bier from the CATO Institute argued that the majority of fentanyl that is seized is encountered at ports of entry and smuggled in by U.S. citizens. Missing from that analysis was the shocking level of influence the Mexican cartels exercise at the border and on American soil—including even by taking control of the travel routes into the U.S. and the flow of drugs, money, and people.
As Arizona Sheriff Mark Lamb pointed out, a large number of “gotaways” (nearly 600,000 who we know of in 2022 alone) come across the border every day with an unknown amount of drugs.
In this sheriff’s county, the majority of illegal aliens they come into contact with are trafficked by the cartels. In the last two years, he has seen human smuggling and trafficking incidents go up 377% and the number of fentanyl pills seized go up 610%.
They are adult military aged men wearing camouflage clothes, carpet shoes, carrying backpacks and often times drugs. They have eluded Border Patrol by walking through the desert for several days and have no intentions of giving up. Many of them have been deported before, have criminal records or work directly for the cartels. Their goal is to enter our country undetected and illegally.
The entire porous border is one giant port of entry under the Biden administration—and it is deadly.
No matter how much is seized, the sobering reality is that only 2 mg of fentanyl, or the equivalent of 3 grains of salt, is potentially lethal and the Mexican drug cartels are “primarily responsible for the fentanyl that is killing Americans today,” according to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.
As last week’s hearing continued, Bier also focused on curbing the demand for fentanyl. Kiessling adamantly rejected that, saying her sons didn’t “ask” for fentanyl. She said this isn’t a demand problem or something that can be solved by making fentanyl “safer” to use.
Fentanyl is not being sought out by young people struggling with substance abuse. Many victims do not intend to purchase fentanyl but instead consume it unknowingly laced in another drug and are poisoned instantly.
Amidst the tragedy so many American families continue to face, perhaps the most out-of-touch person of all is the president of the United States. Despite losing one son and experiencing the destruction drugs have caused with his remaining son, Biden belittled Kiessling’s loss while laughing to point out that her sons died during the prior administration.
Kiessling rightfully chided the president, calling him “despicable.” This is exactly the response warranted when someone in a position of leadership laughs off the drug crisis or shifts blame rather than takes responsibility and becomes a part of the solution to the border crisis instead of the problem.
The Biden administration is supposedly all about addressing the “root causes” of issues. The border crisis is one of the root causes of the fentanyl crisis in America.
As the president and his administration ignore and downplay the crisis, Congress and other national leaders must put aside politics. It is a life and death matter that they be voices for reasonable, actionable solutions in future legislation, including defunding the Biden open border operations and redirecting money from things like the president’s misdirected budget proposals to true border security.
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Erin Dwinell is a senior research associate with The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center.
Photo “Rebecca Kiessling” by Rep. Mark Green.