President Biden, during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, announced a massive boost in efforts tackling fentanyl trafficking at the U.S.-Mexico border, adding to ongoing measures that have already seen historic seizures by the federal government. Under the efforts, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to install more than 120 new “large-scale scanners” at ports of entry, where the vast majority of drug seizures are made.
Currently, border officers have the capacity to inspect “around two percent of passenger vehicles and about 17 percent of cargo vehicles,” a Biden administration fact sheet said. With the added technology, agents will be able to increase that to 40% of passenger cars and 70% of cargo vehicles, respectively. “These investments will crack down on a major avenue of fentanyl trafficking, securing our border and keeping dangerous drugs from reaching our country.”
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The Biden administration also announced measures to intercept fentanyl, “and the materials used to make it,” from getting into the streets via shipping.
“Drug traffickers use small, hard-to-track packages to ship opioids and other illicit materials into and within the United States, hidden among the millions of packages sent daily via commercial package delivery companies,” the fact sheet said. Under the new measures, border officials will seek voluntary help from shipping companies, like FedEx. These companies can “provide data that help law enforcement identify, inspect and intercept suspicious packages.”
These human aspects of the plan are just as important. Measures will further ensure that communities devastated by the fentanyl crisis have greater access to “life-saving naloxone,” also known as Narcan. This is a truly life-saving drug, which can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose and bring a person back from near-death in just a few minutes. The administration said it’s also expanding access to treatment and recovery, including ensuring detained people can access care both while in jail or prison, and upon their release. Read the full fact sheet here.
The president, during his speech Tuesday, said that 70,000 Americans continue to die from fentanyl every single year. One guest to the capital that evening was a New Hampshire dad who lost his daughter to a fentanyl overdose at just 20.
”Describing the last eight years without her, Doug said, ‘There’s no worse pain,’” the president said. “Yet their family has turned pain to purpose, working to end the stigma and change laws. He told us he wants to start a journey toward American recovery. Doug, we’re with you.” While the fact sheet noted that overdose deaths have decreased for several months in a row now, “these deaths remain unacceptably high and are primarily caused by fentanyl.”
“So let’s launch a major surge to stop fentanyl production, and the sale and trafficking, with more drug detection machines, inspection cargo, stop pills and powder at the border,” the president continued. “Second, let’s do more on mental health, especially for our children. When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at their schools.”
Unfortunately, Republicans’ priority has been to use the fentanyl crisis as a political weapon against immigrants and Democrats. Republicans should have jumped to their feet and applauded the president’s announcement during his speech, but their response was to instead scream—quite literally, scream—that it's the “border,” and that fentanyl-related deaths were his “fault.”
This is a human issue that needs the federal government’s full attention, but Republicans aren’t interested in that. Remember that most Republicans voted against hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the construction and modernization of land ports of entry. Hearings that House Republicans have held have supposedly been to address fentanyl, but have instead just been an excuse to continue pointing fingers at migrants.
Republicans are saying, through their votes on the floor, words within hearing rooms, and the messages they choose to put out to the public through their various channels, that their political gamesmanship is more important than trying to save 70,000 American lives every year. That’s a tragedy—and one of Republicans’ own doing.
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