By Bethany Blankley (The Center Square)
Local and federal law enforcement officials are pushing back against claims by Democratic members of Congress that the majority of seizures of illegal fentanyl occur at ports of entry along the southern border because Republicans are exaggerating the border crisis.
Tuesday, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, said the vast majority of fentanyl, 90%, was seized at the southern border at ports of entry and more than 80% of those arrested for smuggling were American citizens.
“We need to stop the flow of fentanyl into our country,” he said. “It’s a matter of life and death.” However, “the vast majority of fentanyl coming into the country is seized at ports of entry, not from migrants traveling across the border on foot,” he said, adding that “90% of fentanyl seizures are at ports of entry at vehicle check points. And not in between,” and “more disturbingly … 80% are smuggled.” Convicted [fentanyl and drugs] US citizens, not foreign nationals.
Democrats made similar arguments at a House Judiciary hearing on border security last week.
But Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief John Modlin said Border Patrol agents seized more than 700 pounds of fentanyl in 2022, about half of it in the field, meaning not at ports of entry.
“To give you an idea of the lethality of fentanyl, it’s enough to kill everyone in Arizona 21 times, or basically half the population of the United States,” he said. Agents seized 52% at the port of entry and the rest “after being backpacked at the border,” he said.
Former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey created the Arizona Border Strike Force to provide state funding to local law enforcement agencies to combat increased crime from the southern border.
In 2021, strike force members “seized more than 700 pounds of fentanyl in one year, compared to 284 in the previous five years,” Job Dickenson, president of the Mesa-Arizona-based Border Security Alliance, told The Center Square. “There are 4,500 pills in one pound.”
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The data excludes seizures from local police statewide and federal statistics, he said.
“The amount of fentanyl coming across the southern border is getting into the hands of border patrol and local law enforcement and our citizens,” he said. “Because Border Patrol agents can’t patrol the border while processing illegal immigrants, more fentanyl is making it further into the U.S. That’s why seizures of fentanyl by more local police and sheriffs are skyrocketing.”
RELATED: Border officials deny claims fentanyl is not smuggled into US between ports of entry
Dickenson argues that the lack of border security is affecting local Arizona law enforcement. Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ plan to defund Strike Force would weaken local law enforcement’s ability to stop cartel and criminal activity, he said, continuing to seize record amounts of fentanyl.
Dickenson also asked, “How is it that all this fentanyl is coming through ports, going through inspection officers and high-tech machines but then patrol officers are doing traffic stops and seizing record numbers in the field? We’ll see how much is coming into our communities,” he said, adding that it’s illegal between ports of entry. by the entrant.
Modlin testified that Tucson Sector agents were primarily arresting single military-age men wearing camouflage working with Mexican cartels. They are dangerous, he said, and have previously attacked deported criminals and Border Patrol agents.
US Rep. Katie Porter, D-Washington, pointed to an increase in fentanyl seized at the border around June-August 2020, saying, “We’ve had a change of president in 2020 and some changes in border policy, and we can see here that the facts show that we’re seizing more fentanyl.
A change in president did not occur until January 2021, after which President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas began to halt implementation of existing border security and immigration policies, including halting border wall construction and drastically changing deportation and detention policies. Roughly half of all US states have sued multiple times over their administration to end the stay-in-Mexico policy and enforce Title 42, creating new visa and parole programs, among other policies.
RELATED: Border chief: Majority of people illegally entering Tucson sector are single military-age men
Porter said as a mother, she “doesn’t want that fentanyl in this country. It is dangerous and it kills people. The record seizures “are a sign that our Border Patrol and our agents are doing their job in seizing large amounts of fentanyl at ports of entry,” he said. What’s interesting to me despite the success here is that what we’re hearing is an attempt to characterize seizures as failures.
Porter referred to Republican members of Congress as “Biden’s border crisis” and the amount of fentanyl seized. “To me, it’s a success that you’re seizing these drugs,” he testified to the agents.
Sheriff Thad Cleveland, a former longtime Border Patrol agent who served in Terrell County, Texas, Arizona, told The Center Square, “Every seizure of any drug or narcotics has been successful. However, the scary thing now is that we are being told about record seizures of fentanyl on an almost weekly basis. Why is that? As the cartels become more successful in smuggling, this emboldens them to send larger and larger amounts.
“It doesn’t matter if 90% or 99% of the fentanyl is seized at the ports of entry,” Cleveland said, because the numbers “represent what’s seized, how it got across or more importantly, what gets away.”
Cleveland said border and national security must be prioritized and Congress needs to address immigration reform once the border is secure.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.