As Fentanyl Deaths Reach Historic Highs, White House Claims Fentanyl at Border Is at ‘Historic Lows’
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre asserted that the level of fentanyl present at America’s southern border is currently “at historic lows.” Amid calls for the Biden administration to secure the border after the deaths of two kidnapped Americans in Mexico at the hands of a drug cartel, observers are pointing to vast increases in overdose deaths and human trafficking under President Biden’s watch.
As news spread of the murders of two Americans and the recovery of two others after the four were kidnapped in Mexico by members of a drug cartel in the border city of Matamoros, Jean-Pierre attempted to draw attention to the Biden administration’s efforts to enforce the law at the southern border. “Because of the work that this President has done, because of what we’ve done specifically on fentanyl at the border, it’s at historic lows,” she said at a Tuesday press briefing.
Observers were quick to question the validity of Jean-Pierre’s claim. National Review’s Jim Geraghty pointed to reports showing that “In 2021, 70,601 people died from a fentanyl overdose in the US. That figure is up 25 percent from 2020 and is nearly double the amount of fentanyl overdose deaths in 2019. … Fentanyl overdose deaths in 2021 were over 26 times higher than a decade prior.” The report further indicated that “fentanyl stands out for an 800 percent increase in overdose deaths in just four years.”
Geraghty went on to observe that Jean-Pierre may have been referring to an increase in seizures of fentanyl by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) which soared from 4,800 pounds in fiscal year 2020 to 11,200 pounds in 2021 to 14,700 pounds in 2022. In just the first four months of fiscal year 2023, 12,500 pounds have been seized. “But the rising amount of fentanyl seized at the border is also an indicator that more fentanyl is coming across the border,” Geraghty noted.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has reported that the amount of fentanyl seized in 2022 amounted to “50.6 million fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills and more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. … The DEA Laboratory estimates that these seizures represent more than 379 million potentially deadly doses of fentanyl.” Notably, the DEA also reported that “[m]ost of the fentanyl trafficked by the Sinaloa and CJNG Cartels is being mass-produced at secret factories in Mexico with chemicals sourced largely from China.”
On Wednesday, Congressman Pat Fallon (R-Texas) joined “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” to discuss the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis.
“I met with the DEA a couple of weeks ago, and they say, ‘It’s a matter of accepted fact that the more drugs being seized, it’s just merely a percentage of what’s getting through,” he observed. “So it’s not a good thing. … And for unfortunate proof of that fact: we lost 108,000 Americans to opioid overdoses, [including] 80,000 to fentanyl just last year. That’s a record high. So the Biden administration doesn’t want to talk about 108,000 Americans dying. They want to talk about seizures.”
Fallon went on to assert that “the Mexican drug cartels do present a clear and present danger to the United States — they make about $25 billion [per year] in narcotics trafficking. They’re making about $12 billion [additionally] in human smuggling.”
Observers are pointing to an increase in human trafficking at the border since Biden took office in January 2021 following his administration’s reversal of a series of Trump-era restrictions on immigration. The Heritage Foundation’s Hannah Davis has found that in the last fiscal year, human trafficking arrests “rose 50%; convictions soared by 80%. The vast majority, 72%, of those trafficked in the U.S. are immigrants. Most of them are here illegally.”
Davis, a researcher at Heritage’s Border Security and Immigration Center, also pointed to a study that found that “60% of unaccompanied alien children [UACs] are caught by cartels and exploited through child pornography and drug trafficking.” She further found that in January 2023, “5,882 UACs crossed the border — an increase of more than 80% over the number logged by the Trump administration in January 2020.”
“[Biden] is facilitating the largest human smuggling operation in human history,” Fallon declared. “His policies have enriched the cartels. Their profits are up approximately 50%.”
He further explained the link between drug and human smuggling that the cartels employ. “They’ll have a bunch of illegal migrants, and they’ll exploit them by charging them about $3-4,000 a head. So that’s a direct payment to the cartels. And then they’ll say, ‘Okay, you 500 go across now.’ So they’ll flood a sector knowing that a mile or two down the road in about an hour, all of the Customs and Border Patrol’s resources are going to be sent to deal with the 500 illegal migrants, and then they just sneak across their narcotics. So one hand is pretty much washing the other.”
In light of the ongoing border crisis, the Biden administration appears to be rethinking at least a part of their immigration policies. On Wednesday, reports surfaced that the White House is considering reinstating a policy that would detain illegal border crossers, which is angering some Democrats on the Hill who say the administration’s “lack of communication on immigration-related policy decisions is an insult.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.