By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott met with scores of law enforcement officers in Corpus Christi to discuss measures being taken to secure the border and combat the fentanyl crisis.
“Cartels are bringing fentanyl across the border in record amounts,” Gov. Abbott said. “Texas DPS alone has confiscated enough lethal doses to kill every man, woman and child in America.”
He said, “this past year we’ve seen a record number of people lose their life because of fentanyl, the precursors of which are made in China and shipped to Mexico. Cartels make them into drugs that are then sold in the United States. Last year alone in Texas, we had almost 1,700 people who lost their lives because of fentanyl overdoses.”
More than four Texans a day die because of fentanyl, he added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of death of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 “is not COVID or cancer,” Gov. Abbott said, “it’s fentanyl. This is a crisis.”
While those in Texas law enforcement are “trying their best to get it off our streets,” he said, “it’s time the Biden administration take it serious and step up to secure the border, if nothing else to stop the fentanyl.”
Gov. Abbott also warned at Thursday’s meeting about the dangers of rainbow fentanyl that cartels are bringing across the border that look like candy “that some kids may take and not survive.”
Gov. Abbott said the state legislature next year will consider several proposals to beef up enforcement efforts and expand resources. One proposal will identify a “fentanyl overdose for what it is … a poisoning.” Another will “classify fentanyl for the crime that it is … murder. Anyone who laces a pill with fentanyl and knowingly sells it to someone else who loses their life should be arrested, tried and convicted for murder,” he said.
Another will allow for people to more easily and readily receive immediate medical treatment by making NARCAN more accessible statewide. Another will help those suffering from substance abuse and expand mental health resources.
He also said his executive order declaring Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations is enabling law enforcement to “identify and seize cartel assets” and those of gang members, “to put them out of business. We want them to understand if they are doing business in Texas, they picked the wrong state. We will track down their boats, their money, their cars, whatever assets they have and put them out of business.”
The legislature provided additional resources to local sheriffs to help them combat crime “stemming from Joe Biden’s open border policies,” he said.
“It’s important that I emphasize this: we should not be doing this,” he added. “This is the federal government’s responsibility to take care of this issue. We are big enough to step up and respond to it but the federal government needs to do its assigned duty under the constitution to secure the border. We’re not going to wait on them. We will continue to step up.”
Nueces County Sheriff JC Hooper said the county is a different place today than it was before President Joe Biden took office.
“Two and half years ago there were only three deaths related to fentanyl. One year ago there were 17; last year there were 31,” Sheriff Hooper said. “We are on a pace to beat that again this year.
“The fentanyl pipeline comes through Nueces County,” he added, “heading to the distribution center of Houston.” Nueces County used to be a pass through, he said, 30 miles off of Highway 77, a route used by smugglers and traffickers of people and drugs.
“Now it’s hitting us right between our eyes,” he said. “It’s hitting our young people. We don’t see an end in sight. Something has to be done.”
Sheriff Hooper also said fentanyl deaths are occurring inside the county jail. “It comes in as easily as spraying some liquefied fentanyl on paper and it’s extremely difficult to detect,” he said. “Now we are spending money on technology to try and address that issue. Fentanyl is everywhere and it starts at the border.”
Zapata County Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque Jr. said Gov. Abbott helped equip his rural county with a range of resources it wouldn’t otherwise have had.
“Not only has Gov. Abbott pushed to secure the border,” he said, “but also has been constantly searching for resources for rural counties like mine. He has provided us with resources and equipment that have helped us to continue doing our job. Gov. Abbott stepped up to the plate when no one did. He has heard the voice of small rural counties that have been unheard for many years. He’s visited our counties at the border and is helping us and listening to our concerns.”
Fighting crime stemming from the border “is not a red issue, a blue issue,” he said. “This is a red white and blue issue.”