Fentanyl seizures rise at U.S.-Mexico border — here's why

Trending 7 months ago

U.S. authorities cracking down connected fentanyl

Federal agents ambush suspected fentanyl laboratory successful Arizona amid effort to ace down connected deadly drug 05:08

The spike successful fentanyl-related overdose deaths successful nan U.S. has fueled a nationalist speech and a redoubling of nan government's efforts to curb its smuggling. In 2021, 90% of immoderate 80,000 opioid-related deaths progressive fentanyl, federal statistics show.

Most fentanyl is being smuggled,  into nan U.S. on nan confederate border, often successful vehicles driven by American citizens, arsenic cartels and different criminal groups successful Mexico person turned nan accumulation of nan synthetic opioid into a clandestine manufacture that has go nan superior root of fentanyl successful nan U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 

Since President Joe Biden took office, Republicans person sought to nexus nan spike successful fentanyl-related overdose deaths pinch nan grounds numbers of migrants who person entered U.S. custody on nan Mexican border. The Biden administration's handling of a historical influx of forbidden separator crossings, Republican lawmakers claim, has allowed fentanyl to beryllium smuggled into nan U.S. astatine higher rates and fueled nan opioid crisis.

The statement complete really nan deadly supplier is being smuggled was connected afloat show earlier this week, erstwhile nan Republican-led House of Representatives held its first proceeding connected U.S. separator policy.

While nary Biden management officials were called to testify, House Judiciary Committee Democrats accused Republicans of spreading misinformation. "What I find peculiarly pernicious is nan effort to conflate nan issues of migrants seeking asylum done our ineligible processes pinch nan very existent scourge of fentanyl trafficking," said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, Democrat of Pennsylvania.

"Do you attraction precisely whether aliases not fentanyl is coming through ports of introduction aliases between ports of introduction erstwhile your family was straight impacted because fentanyl is flooding into our communities?" said GOP Rep. Chip Roy, of Texas. 

During a briefing pinch reporters Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said it was "unequivocally mendacious that fentanyl is being brought to nan United States by non-citizens encountered successful betwixt nan ports of introduction who are making claims of reliable fearfulness and seeking asylum."

"The vast, immense mostly is sought to beryllium smuggled done nan ports of introduction and tractor-trailer trucks and rider vehicles," Mayorkas added.

While successful fentanyl smuggling rates aren't calculated by nan government, seizures of fentanyl on nan confederate separator person successful truth risen sharply successful caller years. Experts opportunity only a fraction of fentanyl is seized by Border Patrol agents betwixt nan ports of entry, pinch virtually nary transported by migrants seeking asylum wrong nan United States.

"People conscionable don't judge that others would beryllium truthful brazen arsenic to bring narcotics done a ineligible crossing constituent wherever they cognize there's a imaginable for them to beryllium checked. They conscionable deliberation logically, it makes much consciousness to effort to sneak [them] in," said David Bier, subordinate head of migration studies astatine nan Cato Institute. "It's really a batch easier for Border Patrol to spot a quality crossing a separator than it is for an inspector to spot narcotics wrong a tractor-trailer afloat of goods."

Where is fentanyl being seized?

According to nan DEA, astir of nan fentanyl is smuggled complete onshore crossed nan U.S.-Mexico border. Smaller amounts are smuggled by aerial from China.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), nan agency responsible for interdicting illicit narcotics on nan U.S. borders, has reported that nan immense mostly of its fentanyl seizures on nan confederate separator person occurred astatine ports of entry, wherever officials surface returning American citizens, overseas travelers and commercialized trucks. 

In fiscal twelvemonth 2022, 84% of nan 14,104 pounds of fentanyl seized on nan Mexican separator were detected by officers astatine ports of introduction overseen by nan Office of Field Operations, a CBP branch, according to government data.

On nan different hand, Border Patrol, which apprehends migrants who participate nan U.S. illegally, seized 2,200 pounds of fentanyl, aliases 16% of each fentanyl seized on nan confederate border, successful fiscal twelvemonth 2022. Moreover, galore of those seizures occurred astatine interior checkpoints, wherever Border Patrol agents surface commercialized and rider vehicles.

How overmuch fentanyl is entering nan United States? How galore Americans are dying?

Last year, nan DEA seized capable fentanyl to termination each American — much than 50 cardinal fentanyl-laced pills and complete 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder. 

More than 70,000 group died of overdose from synthetic opioids unsocial successful 2021, according to nan CDC — a number representing 2 retired of 3 of each fatal supplier overdoses and much lives mislaid than nan mixed balanced of U.S. subject unit killed during nan wars successful Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

During nan pandemic, from 2019-2021, yearly deaths from fentanyl astir doubled.

Along pinch nan COVID-19 pandemic, overdose deaths person driven mean life expectancy down in nan U.S. complete nan past 2 years.

Appearing earlier nan House Judiciary Committee connected Wednesday, Brandon Dunn, co-founder of "Forever 15," a nonprofit group dedicated to raising consciousness astir fentanyl poisoning said his boy "was murdered by a supplier trader trading counterfeit Percocet pills. The pill contained nary Percocet, conscionable 8 milligrams of fentanyl — 4 times the DEA's estimate of a lethal dose.

Dunn told lawmakers that parents suffering a akin nonaccomplishment person encouraged him to "come up present and fto group cognize this is simply a separator issue, not an migration issue."

Who is smuggling fentanyl into nan U.S.?

Years ago, astatine nan commencement of nan opioid epidemic, nonstop flows of fentanyl came chiefly from China. Nowadays, officials opportunity nan larger situation is curbing Chinese-sourced fentanyl precursors from entering a U.S.-bound pipeline.

"We were primitively seeing a batch much fentanyl coming successful done world message accommodation pre-pandemic," said a CBP charismatic granted anonymity to speak openly astir nan challenge. "The mostly of it is now coming successful done nan confederate separator section offices and ports of entry."

Mexican cartels and transnational criminal organizations producing synthetic opioids adjacent doorway are now mostly responsible for fentanyl production, according to nan DEA. They typically tried to smuggle fentanyl into nan U.S. connected vehicles entering charismatic ports of introduction on nan confederate border.

For years, nan Sinaloa Cartel controlled astir trafficking crossed nan U.S.-Mexico border. But officials from DHS' investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) show CBS News they're search an uptick successful activity by nan Jalisco New Generation Cartel aliases CJNG. "They [also] person nan contacts to China and past furthermore, nan distribution networks to get things crossed nan United States, nan smuggling networks," 1 charismatic added.

But these criminal networks trust connected nan practice of Americans, too. Data from nan U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that betwixt 2017–2021, 86% of fentanyl trafficking offenders were American citizens.

According to officials astatine Homeland Security Investigations, a DHS branch, cartels routinely "utilize, shape and enlistee American citizens" to smuggle narcotics into nan U.S., but nan individuals moving to carrier synthetic opioids are not typically high-ranking members wrong a criminal network.

Have fentanyl seizures on nan confederate separator increased?

At nan commencement of nan COVID-19 pandemic, from 2019-2021, fentanyl seizures astatine ports of introduction nationwide quadrupled.

The U.S. government's prohibition connected astir ineligible cross-border postulation amid nan nationalist wellness emergency prompted a move to nan easier-to-conceal synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

"Closures of ports of introduction massively restricted nan magnitude of transverse separator recreation during nan pandemic, which intends that successful bid to proviso nan aforesaid market, [organizations] either needed a batch much trips into nan United States, a batch much smugglers to make those trips, aliases you needed to move [to] nan much potent substance. That's really what happened very soon aft recreation was restricted," said Bier. "The magnitude of fentanyl being trafficked accrued substantially."

The synthetic opioid is astir 50 times much potent than heroin, according to nan DEA.

"This is not for illustration nan aged days of [criminals] smuggling nan large dense marijuana bales — wherever you had to bring a batch of it successful to make a profit," a CBP charismatic said. "With fentanyl, a small spot goes a agelong way."

In fiscal years 2021 and 2022, CBP officials astatine ports of introduction carried retired 91% and 83% of each fentanyl seizures on nan confederate border, respectively. 

That disparity has only grown successful caller months. Last December, CBP seized astir 4,500 pounds of fentanyl – much than 8 times nan magnitude seized during nan aforesaid period successful 2022. Of nan 4,471 pounds of fentanyl captured by CBP, little than 5 pounds – astir 0.1% – were discovered by Border Patrol agents.

Do grounds migrant arrivals effect supplier flows?

U.S. authorities information and national rule enforcement accounts uncover fentanyl is mostly smuggled into nan state astatine ports of introduction successful coordination pinch cartels and transnational criminal groups.

But national rule enforcement concedes that nan Department of Homeland Security is moving pinch a "finite number of resources" to tackle simultaneous challenges of record-breaking fentanyl trafficking and migrants seeking asylum successful nan United States.

"If we person a group of 200 migrants move themselves in, we of people person to process and carrier them, etc.," 1 CBP charismatic said. "When we're doing that, we don't needfully cognize what's going connected nan remainder of nan border."

In interviews pinch CBS News, DHS officials expressed a greater request for resources, including unit and exertion enabling greater "situational awareness" astatine nan U.S.-Mexico border.

What's next?

It's not conscionable fentanyl pills and powder. Federal rule enforcement is now search precursor chemicals utilized to make fentanyl – including immoderate that are legal.

Authorities person besides taken statement of caller phenomena of unwitting drivers pushing narcotics complete nan southwest border. "What we're seeing much and much astatine nan southwest separator is group that are coming crossed and not knowing, but nan narcotics person been placed successful nan vehicle," a rule enforcement charismatic told CBS News. "[Criminals] fundamentally break into nan conveyance successful Mexico, conceal narcotics and connect a GPS locator to nan vehicle, past find it later and retrieve nan product."

CBP has witnessed a "tremendous uptick" successful nan usage of unmanned aerial systems aliases drones, designed for contraband drop-offs. In fiscal twelvemonth 2022, CBP detected much than 2,200 drones engaged successful drug-related activity astatine some nan bluish and confederate borders.

To bolster scanning astatine ports of entry, nan U.S. authorities has pledged much than half a cardinal dollars to adhd much precocious "non-intrusive inspection" exertion though nan programme has been slow to rotation out. CBP officials person acquired astir 135 non-intrusive inspection systems, though conscionable 10 person been deployed to operational locations successful Texas, Arizona and California.

DHS is now accepting bids from contractors to maximize nan usage of artificial intelligence successful non-intrusive scanning equipment, Secretary Mayorkas said Thursday.

Trying to extremity chemic precursors from entering proviso chains successful nan U.S. and Mexico is simply a dense investigative assistance for national rule enforcement. "China is nan leader successful sending precursors. And what we're seeing is that those are mostly landing successful Mexico," said U.S. officials, who opportunity they've besides identified a mini number of labs wrong nan U.S. that trust connected precursors.

The U.S. is "receiving bully practice from nan Mexicans," Mayorkas said Thursday, pinch transnational criminal investigative units "delivering results not conscionable successful Mexico but elsewhere." 

"One does not stay a transit state for agelong earlier 1 becomes a unfortunate state arsenic well," Mayorkas added.

Still, experts and national officers alike concede that rule enforcement is only a fraction of nan solution needed to reside nan fentanyl crisis.

"Any benignant of further crackdown connected nan separator will conscionable further displacement nan marketplace to a much potent and much vulnerable alternative," Bier said, pointing toward harm simplification models designed to empower physicians and users to negociate addiction. "Everything must beryllium done wrong nan United States to trim nan request and nan collateral consequences of group utilizing this vulnerable substance."

  • Drug Overdose
  • Overdose
  • Fentanyl
  • War On Drugs
  • Mexico-United States Border
  • Drug Enforcement Administration

Nicole Sganga

CBS News newsman covering homeland information and justice.

Thanks for reference CBS NEWS.

Create your free relationship aliases log successful
for much features.

Please participate email reside to continue

Please participate valid email reside to continue

Source cbsnews.com/crime