By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, claimed at a U.S. House committee hearing Tuesday that the majority of fentanyl — 90% – was being seized at southern border ports of entry and that over 80% of those apprehended for smuggling it were American citizens.
“We’ve got to stop the flow of fentanyl into our country,” he said. “It’s a matter of life and death.” However, he said, “the vast majority of fentanyl coming into the country is seized at ports of entry, not from migrants traveling across the border on foot.”
Rep. Raskin added that “90% of fentanyl seizures were at ports of entry at vehicle check points and not between, and what’s more puzzling … is that 80% of people convicted of smuggling [fentanyl and drugs] were American citizens, not foreign nationals.”
A similar argument was made by Democrats in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on border security last week.
Texas law enforcement officers working through Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, have seized more than 360 million lethal doses of fentanyl since March 2021 between ports of entry and throughout Texas, more than enough to kill everyone in the United States. Because Mexican cartels “are bringing fentanyl across the border in record amounts,” Gov. Abbott designated them as foreign terrorist organizations.
And while Texas law enforcement officers are “trying their best to get it off our streets,” Gov. Abbott’s argued, “it’s time the Biden administration take it serious and step up to secure the border, if nothing else to stop the fentanyl.”
A Border Patrol agent at the southern border in Texas told The Center Square on condition of anonymity for fear of being retaliated against, “We know fentanyl is coming through because of our intelligence from sources in Mexico, interrogations (interviews) with smugglers and cartel and drawbridge images. Illegal aliens are carrying narcotics in their backpacks or duffel bags. The cartel is going to choose the easiest and least secure route depending on the size of the load. Do you think that’s going to be at a port of entry or in-between?”
Kinney County Attorney Brent Smith, who’s helping to prosecute the greatest number of felony charges brought against illegal foreign nationals in Texas, told The Center Square that Democrats’ claims about fentanyl “gives evidence to the fact that they are willfully ignorant to what is really happening on our southern border. It also shows they have no regard to the thousands of Americans who have lost their lives to this dangerous poison.”
Last week, Hays County, Texas, resident Brandon Dunn testified about his son being killed from fentanyl poisoning, saying, “given the lethality of this drug, any amount smuggled in in a backpack or a fanny pack or even in somebody’s pocket can be enough to kill thousands of people. It’s not just a border checkpoint issue. Without immediate medical intervention, a person is not likely to survive. That’s how fast it kills.”
House Oversight Committee member Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana, responded by saying there were over “a million gotaways” in the last two years “that we know about; that’s stout young men as the chief (John Modlin) testified wearing camouflage, rolling hard. They got Milspec radios. They’re carrying backpacks. They work for the drug cartels. What do you think’s in the backpacks?
“Every American watching this understands there’s a tremendous amount of illicit fentanyl and meth crossing between the ports of entry.”
Border Patrol agents use the term “gotaways” to refer to foreign nationals who illegally enter the U.S. between ports of entry, intentionally evade law enforcement, don’t return to Mexico or Canada, and “got away” into the interior of the U.S. Law enforcement officers express concern about not knowing who or where they are. In fiscal 2022, more than 637,000 gotaways were reported nationwide, including over 350,000 in Texas, according to Border Patrol data obtained by The Center Square.
Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd told The Center Square, “If Democrats actually believe that fentanyl is only being smuggled in through ports of entry, I have a bridge I’d like to sell them. The reason the seizures are happening primarily at port of entry is because Border Patrol is being directed to administrative duties, which prevents them from patrolling the vast unoccupied areas along most of the border with Mexico.”
Tom Homan, former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told The Center Square, the claims made by Democrats “are wrong. Most fentanyl is SEIZED at ports because all, 100% of conveyances, are stopped and may be sent to secondary for further search based on a variety of circumstances.
“They don’t know how much fentanyl crosses the border between the ports. To assume that a small portion of fentanyl comes between the ports of entry, the same place where 1.2 million people entered and got away, is ridiculous,” he said, referring to the known gotaways reported over the past two years.
“Not to mention that up to 80% of agents have been pulled from border operations to process (foreign nationals), which leaves hundreds of miles of border where there are no agents to intercept speaks for itself,” he added. “It’s not a coincidence that fentanyl overdose deaths are at an historic level during the same exact time that we have historic illegal immigration. This issue is killing thousands of U.S. citizens. They need to stop playing politics and the spin and work on strong border measures to save lives.”
Terrell County Sheriff Thad Cleveland, who’s pursuing human smugglers on a daily basis, told The Center Square, “It doesn’t matter if 90% or 99% of fentanyl is seized at the ports of entry.” What’s being reported only “represents what is seized, not how it is crossed, or more importantly, what gets away. … We must do what is right. Americans are being poisoned daily. We need to prevent those poisonings by securing our border.”