A few months ago, Customs and Border Protection officers made the country’s largest fentanyl bust in history. Two hundred and fifty-four pounds of fentanyl and 395 pounds of methamphetamine was stopped at the border. A 26-six-year-old Mexican man was driving a tractor-trailer loaded with cucumbers – and $4.6 million in drugs. The fentanyl alone, not even including the methamphetamine, could kill 100 million people.
This story is all too common. The crisis at the border is fueling America’s opioid and drug addiction epidemic, and not enough is being done to stop it.
President Donald Trump rightly declared a “national health emergency” in October 2017 in response to the widespread deaths related to opioid abuse and overdoses. But as federal, state and local governments implement solutions to reduce drug abuse and help those suffering from drug addiction, one thing remains clear – drug abuse is a national emergency because we have not done enough to secure our borders.
There are many reasons why it’s critical that America have control over our borders, stem the tide of illegal immigration, and stop smuggling of any kind into the United States. But most importantly, a safe and secure border will mean saving thousands of American lives every year that fall victim to synthetic opioids and methamphetamines that flood into the country by Mexican drug cartels and Chinese drug smugglers.
The good news when it comes to our nation’s battle against opioids is that deaths due to prescription opioid overdoses are falling thanks to meaningful policy interventions at the state and federal level, as well as private sector innovations and self-policing. The bad news is that drug abuse deaths from dangerous, illegal drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamines are on the rise. In fact, deaths from fentanyl increased by a startling 520 percent in just a three-year period from 2013 to 2016.
More people are dying from illicit drugs because more drugs are flooding across the border than ever before, and those drugs are increasingly more lethal every day. In fact, as of mid-July 2019, Customs and Border Protection has seized more than 2,000 pounds of fentanyl, more than enough to poison the entire U.S. population. Fentanyl can be 50 times more potent than heroin and lethal in a dose as small as a grain of salt. Unfortunately, while border agents are stopping some of this deadly drug before it gets into the country, even more is getting through legal and illegal points of entry every day.
These drugs are poisoning our communities, and foreign drug cartels and smugglers are to blame. Most of the illicit fentanyl that comes into the U.S. is manufactured in China, smuggled across by the border by Mexican drug cartels, and trafficked all over our nation. While our communities face an opioid and drug addiction crisis, Chinese drug smugglers and Mexican cartels see a business opportunity.
In Effingham County, we see the effects of this deadly drug enterprise every day. Law enforcement throughout the area monitor and combat fentanyl that can be directly sourced back to Mexico and China. Methamphetamine can also now be tied back to drug channels beginning in Mexico. Even worse, meth can often be laced with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which makes the already deadly drug even more lethal.
In 2018, our Deputies and Correctional Officers began carrying Naloxone, (NARCAN). We have had to administer the reversal drug nine times with seven saves – five times to inmates being brought into our jail facility and four times out on the road.
Border security is not an abstract problem that is confined to southern states. It is a public safety and public health problem that touches all Americans, including the citizens of Effingham County. It is a real danger to all the first responders working in our county!
To fix it, we must make funding our border a top priority. That means investing more for not only our border wall, but in technology, in border patrol agents, and in our local law enforcement who are on the front lines of our country’s opioid and drug addiction fight every day.
As Americans, we cannot be complacent and let partisans in Washington play political games and block measures that will provide for comprehensive, well-funded border security. A secure border means a stronger, safer and healthier America – and that’s something we should all agree on.