Calls To ‘Close the Border’ in Response to Fentanyl Deaths Are Misguided
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Final night time, as President Joe Biden gave his State of the Union tackle, he touched on the rising number of overdose deaths within the U.S. that contain fentanyl. “Fentanyl is killing greater than 70,000 People a yr,” stated Biden. Home Republicans started to yell on the president, saying, “It is your fault.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) and different lawmakers shouted, “Shut the border!”
That final remark echoes a sentiment now frequent on the suitable. “Joe Biden made a political resolution to have open borders,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) on Fox Information final night time. “The result’s the worst unlawful immigration within the historical past of our nation and the worst fentanyl disaster this nation has ever confronted.” Home Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) additionally pinned fentanyl deaths on a porous southern border, tweeting, “Securing our southern border would assist tackle this disaster and save lives.”
However the precise mechanics of fentanyl coming over the U.S.-Mexico border are way more complicated. In accordance with immigration analysts and federal drug enforcement data, undocumented immigrants getting into the U.S. aren’t primarily guilty for incoming fentanyl—slightly, it is primarily U.S. residents carrying the drug by ports of entry. Calls to “shut the border” strike on the unsuitable goal, since these are American traffickers getting into the nation at authorized crossings.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that in 2019, 1,208 kilograms of fentanyl had been seized on the southwest border. Simply 148 kilograms—or 12 %—had been seized between ports of entry, whereas the remaining was seized on the ports. The “predominant technique of transporting illicit opioids” into the U.S., according to the DEA, is “land transportation by way of the interstate system.” A December 2021 to Could 2022 analysis of Customs and Border Safety press releases and official Twitter posts carried out by American Immigration Council Coverage Director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick discovered that simply two fentanyl seizures had been attributed to folks crossing the border on foot between ports of entry.
According to David J. Bier, affiliate director of immigration research on the Cato Institute, “simply 279 of 1.8 million arrests by Border Patrol of unlawful border crossers resulted in a fentanyl seizure”—amounting to a scant 0.02 %. “Most drug seizure occasions” from FY 2016 by FY 2020 at Border Patrol checkpoints “concerned solely U.S. residents, and nearly all of these U.S. citizen drug seizure occasions concerned the seizure of marijuana and no different medication,” explained a Authorities Accountability Workplace report final yr. Simply 4 percent “concerned a number of probably detachable folks.”
Critics level out that these statistics measure seizures—there could possibly be untold quantities of fentanyl that merely goes undetected, smuggled between ports. In actuality, it is simpler for drug traffickers to evade scrutiny on the ports in comparison with between them. “Customs and Border Safety estimates that it caught 2 % of cocaine at southwest land ports of entry in 2020 (the one drug it analyzed), whereas it estimated that its interdiction effectiveness price for unlawful crossers was about 83 % in 2021,” Bier has written. “Which means that medication coming at a port entry are about 97 % much less prone to be interdicted than an individual coming between ports of entry.”
Even so, critics fear that extra fentanyl is getting into the nation because of increased migrant arrivals distracting immigration brokers. An analysis by Reichlin-Melnick discovered no correlation between migration charges and opiate seizures. If immigration brokers had been distracted, then we’d anticipate to see fewer drug seizures throughout occasions of upper migration—however the information do not bear this out.
Fentanyl overdoses are a urgent concern, however closing the border is not the answer. Drug prohibition solely exacerbates the negative effects of black markets and retains remedy out of attain for addicts. And in the end, scapegoating foreigners and portray the border with a broad brush obscures the true elements behind America’s fentanyl deaths.