A secure border would save lives | The Hill
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In 2021, life expectancy in the United States sadly dropped to its lowest levels in two decades, largely driven by the spread of illicit, opioid drugs, which killed more than 80,000 Americans (and more than 1,700 Georgians) last year.
That same year, federal authorities seized more than 20 million fake prescription pills. Laboratory tests concluded that more than half of these pills — designed to emulate ‘name-brand’ drugs like OxyContin — contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.
Today, fentanyl poisoning has emerged as a leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45. We are living through an undeniable public health crisis that will not end until policymakers implement strong policies to stop the overdose epidemic.
As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border last month to assess the border situation firsthand and how it plays into the fentanyl crisis we’re seeing across our nation. While there, my colleagues and I learned the strategies and tactics which Mexican drug cartels use to smuggle deadly narcotics into the interior United States.
During a field hearing in McAllen, Texas, on the border crisis as a public health crisis, officials told our committee that two cartels (the Sinaloa and the Jalisco) are responsible for “mass producing and supplying virtually all the deadly fentanyl” that enters the United States. Border patrol agents explained that the Mexican government has ceded territorial control to these cartels, who are now operating with near-total impunity.
On a night tour of the southern border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials explained the distraction maneuvers that cartels use to overwhelm law enforcement so they can covertly move deadly narcotics into our country.
As part of this strategy, traffickers will send large numbers of migrants to one area of the border. Then, once enforcement personnel are dispatched to respond to the surge, the cartels swiftly move drugs across other areas that are now stretched thin.
In one heartbreaking moment, border patrol agents described an incident where cartel members threw a young child, unable to swim, headlong into the Rio Grande — just to distract law enforcement long enough to smuggle fentanyl across another section of the border.
Morale remains low among border patrol officials, not just because they grapple with such atrocities daily, but also because the policies of this administration have dramatically tied their hands.
Immediately after taking office, President Biden placed a 100-day ban on deportations, tried to end Title 42, which requires deportations due to a public health crisis, and halted construction of the border wall. He also previously indicated that he would support health care coverage for “undocumented immigrants.”
On his first day, the president also unveiled a proposal that would carve out a pathway to citizenship — effectively an open invitation to violate our laws. The president’s actions signaled to the rest of the world that his administration would be far more tolerant of illegal immigration than the previous one.
Predictably, what followed was a historic surge of illegal immigration. Southwest land border encounters by CBP nearly tripled over the first six months of Biden’s presidency as floods of people moved northward in hopes that this new administration may shower them with these gifts, too.
In contrast, during the last full year of President Trump’s administration, CPB averaged fewer than 40,000 illegal encounters per month. Last year, CBP recorded an average of 198,245 such encounters every month.
While there is little hope that President Biden will make an about-face on his failed border policies, there are still actionable steps that Congress and the administration can take to stem the flow of lethal narcotics.
My colleagues on the Energy and Commerce committee and I have introduced the HALT Fentanyl Act, legislation that would permanently place fentanyl-related substances into schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and help law enforcement hold those who traffic these deadly substances accountable. I have also co-sponsored the Securing the Border for Public Health Act, which would grant CBP the express authority to deport individuals in connection with bringing illicit drugs across our border.
Collectively, these measures represent critical steps to limit this crisis, and they would go a long way toward giving law enforcement the tools they need to keep these deadly drugs out of American communities. That’s not to mention the other bills I have co-sponsored to reverse the misguided Biden-era immigration policies.
The bottom line is young Americans are losing their lives like never before due to the drug trafficking that high levels of illegal immigration facilitate. And while Congress works to pass new laws addressing this crisis, President Biden should start enforcing the laws we already have.
Rick W. Allen represents the 12th District of Texas and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
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