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EDITORIAL: Of unknowing mules

May 27, 2023 at 3:08 a.m.

F ew will question, as it relates to drugs, that fentanyl is the biggest challenge of our time. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, and in 2021, 90 percent of opioid-related deaths involved the bloody drug.

In the past two years, overdoses have driven down life expectancy in the U.S. for the first time in decades.

Because the vast majority of fentanyl is produced in Mexico, and a record number of migrants from Mexico are seeking to live in the United States (some legally, some not), a few lawmakers have tried to link the two by contending that hordes of illegal immigrants are bringing truckloads of fentanyl with them to the States.

It's an easy story to wrap our arms around because it seems so sensible. But, here's the thing: It's not exactly true.

The fact is, 86 percent of the fentanyl that has been stopped at the border has been at a "port of entry" while being transported by American citizens. It comes across hidden in commercial trucks. And some U.S. citizens unwittingly bring it back across in packages with GPS devices that are clandestinely attached to their cars. The GPS beacon is tracked, found, and then the drug is recovered.

In fiscal year 2022, 14,104 pounds were seized at ports of entry, while 2,200 were seized by border patrol agents between ports of entry.

It's far easier for a border patrol agent to spot a line of immigrants trying to cross the desert between ports of entry than it is to determine which of the 247,000 cars and nearly 12,000 trucks that cross the border on a daily basis may have fentanyl hidden within their cargo.

Despite this, some have tried to capitalize on the story, and have characterized the record seizure amounts as a failure of the Biden administration. It could easily be characterized as a great victory that 16,000 pounds of the stuff was kept out.

Further, the fentanyl trade was in its infancy during the Trump administration; it's now fully grown (we hope we've passed the high point), so it's not fair to compare one administration against the other.

Whether it's about fentanyl, or any other subject, it's been said countless times that if there's a will, there's a way. We could shut down legal and illegal immigration completely and it would not stop the flow of fentanyl to the market that unfortunately demands it.

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