Premium

Smuggler's delight: Fentanyl border surge outstrips 2020 total by end of April

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

This report from Customs and Border Protection gives a new meaning to the term record highs. With the Border Patrol overwhelmed by the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, drug cartels are having a field day. By the end of April, CBP had seized more fentanyl than in all of 2020 — and meth confiscations are on pace to easily outstrip last year as well:

Customs and Border Protection seized more fentanyl so far in 2021 than all of 2020.

As of April, 6,494 pounds of fentanyl were seized by authorities at the border, compared to 4,776 pounds in all of 2020. In fact, fentanyl seizures have been increasing since 2018. …

Methamphetamine seizures are more slowly approaching 2020 levels, according to CBP. So far this year, 105,032 pounds of methamphetamine have been seized. In all of 2020, there were just over 177,000 pounds of meth seized.

They may have been increasing over the last three years, but this is an explosion. Imagine what CBP hasn’t managed to confiscate in this environment, especially with CBP dealing with unprecedented levels of human trafficking and the need to house record numbers of illegal immigrants.

CBP mentions that the cartels have started using other channels to smuggle their product into the US too, a sophisticated strategy that leverages the distraction:

“As cross-border travel shifted to essential-travel only, criminal organizations shifted their operations as well. CBP has seen an increase in seizures amongst U.S. citizens and in the commercial environment as both demographics are exempt from the travel restrictions.”

Marijuana is still the main cash crop flowing across the border by volume, which is itself interesting given the move toward legalization in several states. One argument for legalization was that legal cultivation in the US would end marijuana smuggling from Mexico and Central America. Thus far it doesn’t appear to have had much effect on the cartels’ business model, and it certainly hasn’t helped reduce CBP’s workload.

In potential harm, however, the massive increase in fentanyl is clearly the biggest worry. ABC News points out that this synthetic opioid is “50-100 times stronger than morphine” and usually prescribed in micrograms. The weight of the seizures so far represents 2,945,628 grams. That means that if one prescribed a milligram of fentanyl — which would apparently still be too much — CBP has seized three billion doses of fentanyl in the first four months of 2021 alone.

And we can expect this problem to get worse right along with the humanitarian catastrophe Joe Biden initiated and won’t recognize, Matt Lewis writes:

Since March, Biden has been telling migrants not to come, but that messaging was too little, too late. This week, Politico reported that “The Department of Health and Human Services has diverted more than $2 billion meant for other health initiatives toward covering the cost of caring for unaccompanied immigrant children, as the Biden administration grapples with a record influx of migrants on the southern border.” That money may help but the fact he had to quietly move it there (never mind what other important “health initiatives” may now be given short shrift) makes it clear how much trouble he’s having handling this surge, or finding a solution past hoping it goes away on its own before it becomes a defining failure of his presidency.

As is his M.O., Biden’s strategy has been to act as if everything is going off without a hitch. “Nothing has changed. As many people came—28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration; 31 percent in the last year of—in 2019, before the pandemic, in the Trump administration. It happens every single, solitary year,” Biden declared in late March. Unfortunately, the facts say otherwise. “In April alone, 178,622 people were encountered by the Border Patrol, the highest number in 20 years,” according to the Times. Things keep getting worse on the border, even as Biden talks down the problem. And if history is a predictor, the month of May, often a peak month for border crossings, could turn out to be even worse. That’s partly because it’s not just people fleeing gang violence or poverty in Central America. Thanks to COVID-19, we are seeing a dramatic rise of people crossing the Southern border from countries as far away as India.

As Biden and his administration have talked down the border and emphasized other issues the influx on his watch has received some significant media attention, but not a lot of media emphasis. It isn’t driving the kind of news coverage afforded to Israel vs. Palestine (or even Liz Cheney vs. Elise Stefanik), but the border crisis won’t just disappear and could easily be the SNAFU that defines 2022 for Biden and Democrats, especially in states like Arizona, where even Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was recently critical of the administration.

Biden is failing on the border in every conceivable manner. Even a GOP tangled up in an internecine fight will have an opportunity to punish Democrats over this catastrophe — and they should.