Los­ing the drug war to for­eign smug­glers Stronger bor­ders and tougher law en­force­ment are non-ne­go­tiable

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Joe Ar­paio

For years this coun­try has been too le­nient on bor­der se­cu­rity. The war on drugs is an on­go­ing bat­tle that we are los­ing to for­eign smug­glers at­tempt­ing to dis­trib­ute harm­ful syn­thetic opi­oids far and wide. It is high time to tighten up bor­der se­cu­rity by em­pow­er­ing law en­force­ment in or­der to safe­guard Amer­i­can cit­i­zens from the dan­ger of be­ing traf­ficked in through our own mail sys­tem. There’s no doubt this has be­come a con­tro­ver­sial is­sue, but I just don’t see any way around it after learn­ing how dev­as­tat­ing the opi­oid cri­sis has be­come to our na­tion.

Around 75 per­cent of ap­prox­i­mately 42,000 opi­oid-re­lated deaths in 2016 were caused by il­licit fen­tanyl and heroin. You may be won­der­ing where this “il­licit fen­tanyl” is com­ing from? It is pour­ing into our coun­try through our open bor­ders and lax mail­ing sys­tem.

Chi­nese on­line fen­tanyl ven­dors send hun­dreds of pack­ages to at least 300 sources in the United States via the U.S. Postal Ser­vice. China also com­monly sends com­po­nents of fen­tanyl to Mex­ico, where traf­fick­ers fash­ion large quan­ti­ties into pow­der to then smug­gle across U.S. bor­ders for dis­tri­bu­tion. As a bor­der state, Ari­zona is in an ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion. The smug­glers are equipped to pro­duce the drugs in such mas­sive quan­ti­ties that the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion (DEA) has been un­able to prop­erly pre­pare and com­bat the vol­ume that is be­ing traf­ficked in and dis­trib­uted.

Mex­ico has dis­cov­ered a lu­cra­tive busi­ness of wrong­fully sell­ing il­le­gal drugs as le­git­i­mate medicines and fur­ther es­ca­lat­ing Amer­i­can drug ad­dic­tion. “Mex­i­can Oxy” is a coun­ter­feit prescription pill made by drug car­tels in Mex­ico that are stamped in cus­tom presses to look like a le­git­i­mate prescription drug but ac­tu­ally filled with heroin and/or fen­tanyl, a much more dan­ger­ous and il­le­gal con­coc­tion. The DEA seized 70,000 coun­ter­feit pills in Ari­zona in 2017 alone. Tempe po­lice seized 30,000 coun­ter­feit oxy­codone pills from the Mex­i­can Si­naloa drug car­tel.

In the first five months of 2018, cus­toms of­fi­cers and bor­der agents seized 1,060 pounds of fen­tanyl. Of­fi­cials at Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion and Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions have made vast im­prove­ments in iden­ti­fy­ing il­le­gal opi­oids at bor­ders and in­ter­na­tional mail fa­cil­i­ties. Hand-held sen­sors are now able to de­tect tiny, but po­tent, ship­ments of opi­oids. Ca­nine units have also been trained to de­tect fen­tanyl and other opi­oids.

China is the largest source of il­le­gal fen­tanyl with a so­phis­ti­cated on­line pres­ence. Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions uti­lize soft­ware that scans the dark web for opi­oid sell­ers and an­a­lyzes dig­i­tal cur­rency trans­ac­tions to iden­tify bad ac­tors. In April 2018, law en­force­ment opened in­ves­ti­ga­tions on 45 peo­ple ac­cused of par­tic­i­pat­ing in a drug traf­fick­ing ring that attempted to sell more than 65 pounds of fen­tanyl in New Hamp­shire, Mas­sachusetts and Maine.

The buck doesn’t stop here. Pres­i­dent Trump re­al­izes that the climb­ing death toll is due to il­licit opi­oids pass­ing through failed bor­der se­cu­rity mea­sures and un­pre­pared law en­force­ment. That is why he has or­dered fed­eral agen­cies to hire more bor­der pa­trol agents and knows lo­cal law en­force­ment needs more sup­port — this is how to re­verse the epi­demic, not through un­nec­es­sary regulations on the prescription of opi­oids to pain suf­fer­ers. We must send a mes­sage to our for­eign ad­ver­saries that we will not stand for this de­struc­tion of Amer­i­can life.

I am push­ing for Congress to bol­ster the pres­i­dent’s goal to end the opi­oid epi­demic by pass­ing more bi­par­ti­san laws like the STOP Act, re­quir­ing the U.S. Postal Ser­vice to screen pack­ages for deadly fen­tanyl from over­seas, and to pros­e­cute the crim­i­nals by hold­ing Chi­nese smug­glers and Mex­i­can drug car­tels ac­count­able for their crimes.

China must re-ex­am­ine its ship­ping poli­cies if it wants to con­tinue the trade re­la­tion­ship it has with the United States. We must make ex­am­ples of Mex­i­can drug car­tels that have been caught with fen­tanyl on Amer­i­can soil and bring them to jus­tice for the dam­age they cause. Joe Ar­paio is the for­mer sher­iff of Mari­copa County, Ari­zona. He was a fed­eral nar­cotics agent with the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion and be­came head of DEA for Ari­zona.

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