UPDATED 3:10 PM PT – Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Seizures of fentanyl on the U.S. southern border have soared as the border crisis rages on. The opioid, which is 50 times more potent than heroin, has been smuggled into the country at record rates since the beginning of the fiscal year 2021.
So far throughout 2021, more than 5,500 pounds of the drug have been caught by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol personnel, which is up from around 4,700 pounds in all of 2020. A lack of border security and increased demand for the drug have been pointed to as reasons for the surge.
“From a business side, a better return on investment,” DEA Special Agent Bill Czopek said. “Meaning, they’re just making more money selling these products.”
However, North Carolina Sheriff Sam Page has argued the crisis isn’t just relegated to the border.
“2,000 miles away or less, in 2 days traveling time, persons that are moving drugs or moving persons — smuggling or trafficking — can be in my county,” Rockingham County Sheriff Page said.
Opioid deaths in the United States totaled more than 87,000 in 2020 and have already risen 60 percent in the fiscal year of 2021.
“The devastation that these synthetic opioids are causing on the streets of America is significant,” San Diego DEA Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Misha Piastro said.
On top of it all, Mexican cartels aren’t the only foreign entities profiting from the illegal trade.
“It’s manufactured in Mexico clandestinely, with chemicals that come from China,” noted Kyle Williamson, El Paso DEA Special Agent-in-Charge, said.
In response, the DEA has ramped up efforts to combat the onslaught, which was arguably caused by weakened border security under the Biden administration.
“Project Wave Breaker is an operation, in DEA, designed to attack the fentanyl manufacturing, importation, and distribution problem here in the United States,” Williamson stated.
Wave Breaker will rely on analytics to target specific activities of Mexican drug cartels in order to break up the supply chains, which are coming across the border like a wave.