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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, July 15, 2022

Is America's immigration crisis causing the fentanyl epidemic?

More black market fentanyl is being seized from drug smugglers at the U.S.-Mexico border than ever before — an indication of just how much of the powerful powdery substance cartels are moving into the United States. Consequently, U.S. overdose deaths have skyrocketed — all while illegal migration at the southern border soars to the highest levels in U.S. history. Ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have pointed to both border phenomena as being connected. "The #BidenBorderCrisis is poisoning our communities by allowing fentanyl to be smuggled across our southern border," the House Republican Conference posted to its 1.3 million followers on Twitter Sunday. Drug experts, however, point to U.S. consumers hooked on opioids as the driver for the market, a demand that Mexican cartels are eager to supply. While some of the same cartels pushing fentanyl into the country also smuggle people, they do so through different pathways: one through ports of entry and the migrants through the porous points in between. ICE TO TRANSPORT PREGNANT DETAINEES ACROSS STATE LINES TO FACILITATE ABORTIONS "Most fentanyl drug smuggling attempts occur at Ports of Entry, which continue to make the large majority of fentanyl seizures along the border," a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency that inspects incoming goods and people, wrote in an email Wednesday. Changes in the opioid market Fentanyl is a man-made opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. It was originally created as a legitimate pharmaceutical drug used to treat severe pain after surgery and in advanced-stage cancer patients. "Because of the opioid addiction crisis that was the result of pharmaceutical companies over-selling opioids, early responses to that were a little ham-handed and cut loose a lot of people who would become addicted to pain pills," said Dr. David Herzberg, author of White Market Drugs: Big Pharma and the Hidden History of Addiction in America. "They then went somewhere else to find a supply after they were locked out of white markets." "This changed the opioid supply chain coming through Mexico so that instead of opium-based drugs like heroin being grown in Mexican villages and going through the supply chains that have developed for heroin, you had a replacement with a product that could handle more volume, basically, with new suppliers who didn't have a capital investment in hillside, opium poppy production," Herzberg said. "They were happy to just switch to fentanyl." A Washington Examiner investigation found that Chinese labs in Wuhan produce the main ingredients for fentanyl and send it to Mexico, where it is crafted into the final product, then moved into the United States. It is often added to other drugs, unbeknownst to users. The profits are laundered out of the U.S., through China, then forwarded to the Mexican cartels. Influx of fentanyl and increase in deaths For the first time in America's history, federal law enforcement stationed at the U.S. border intercepted more fentanyl than heroin in 2021. CBP seized 10,000 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal year 2021, compared to just 2 pounds in 2013. The Drug Enforcement Administration states that 2 milligrams of fentanyl are enough to kill someone who inhales, consumes, or injects it. CBP's 11,200 pounds of fentanyl seizures prevented 2.5 billion potentially fatal doses from entering communities. The DEA additionally seized 20.4 million pills that were fake versions of other prescriptions and pumped full of fentanyl. Under Texas initiative Operation Lone Star, meant to boost security at its border with Mexico, law enforcement seized 170 pounds of fentanyl across the state in one year, enough to kill 300 million people. Simultaneously, the number of fentanyl-related deaths reported to authorities increased 56% from 2019 to 2020 and increased 23% from 2020 to 2021 to more than 71,000 last year. "Fentanyl is the drug that is most driving the big increase in overdose deaths (though other drugs are contributing as well)," Jeff Lancashire, a spokesman for the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, previously told the Washington Examiner. Fentanyl slipping past authorities The rise in deaths and seizures indicates smugglers are attempting to move more fentanyl into the U.S. and have been successful. Critics of President Joe Biden's border policies say the influx of migrants illegally crossing the border over the past 16 months has forced the Border Patrol to pull approximately half of its agents from the border to transport and process people it takes into custody instead, which is true. They have also stated that this has led to cartels being able to move more fentanyl easily because fewer agents are on patrol. Herzberg, an associate history professor at the University of Buffalo in New York, called Republicans' claim a “misnomer." “It's not an immigration issue,” said Herzberg. “Any business person looking at this like, ‘Should I give this drug to a migrant who's going to be in incredibly exigent circumstances with lots of officials and authorities looking for them? Or should I just toss it in an 18-wheeler that's one of 100,000 legal 18-wheelers crossing the border every day? It's obvious that nobody is going to be investing in desperate migrants. I mean, that's not going to be the main way that the drugs are getting across the border.” Fentanyl and migrant smuggling occur separately The fentanyl being seized at the border is nearly all found at ports of entry where vehicles must clear inspection before traversing into the country. Migrants who illegally cross go to areas away from the ports. “I don't think there is justification for linking the fentanyl issue and the migration situation," Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, wrote in an email. "For decades, we have had drugs coming across the Southern border, as well as across other borders. What's new is that the drugs coming are changing." Ninety percent of the fentanyl seized in 2021 was at ports of entry, where field operations officers inspect commercial and passenger vehicles. A mere 10% of total fentanyl seizures were intercepted by the Border Patrol, whose agents are assigned to the land between ports of entry and who focus on apprehending people who attempt to enter the U.S. unlawfully. The Border Patrol's seizures were conducted almost entirely at highway inspection checkpoints, finding fentanyl in vehicles and passengers. "U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers and Border Patrol Agents enhance our ability to interdict illegal narcotics every single day through a layered, multifaceted approach both at Ports of Entry and between them," the agency spokesperson said in a statement, citing new surveillance systems, technology, improved intelligence analysis systems, and information systems with foreign and state partners. At ports of entry, inspection officers use large, nonintrusive imaging machines to X-ray suspicious vehicles. On June 8, officers at the Hidalgo International Bridge in South Texas sent a vehicle in question through the imaging machine and found 22 pounds of fentanyl concealed inside, CBP disclosed. Since October 2021, CBP has prevented 7,600 pounds of fentanyl from making it into the U.S. Eight-five percent of seizures were made at the ports of entry, not by the Border Patrol. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER Asked about the House GOP's tweet, a spokesperson for the House Republican Conference reiterated the original point. "Joe Biden's open-border policies have plunged our southern border into absolute chaos. It is a fact that Biden’s fentanyl crisis is directly a result of his border crisis, as the illegal drugs pour in over the wide open southern border," the spokesperson said. For more information, contact us at: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html

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