In fiscal year 2022, Customs and Border Protection seized more than 14,000 pounds of fentanyl. The lethal opioid drug has become a leading cause of death in adults ages 18-45.
“The fentanyl seizures continue to increase, each fiscal year, and we know that of those seizures, we’re probably only apprehending 5% to 10% of the drugs that are being smuggled into the country,” Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., says.
The urgency of the fentanyl crisis led Guest and Rep. David Trone, D-Md., to introduce the END FENTANYL Act, standing for Eradicating Narcotic Drugs and Formulating Effective New Tools to Address National Yearly Losses of Life Act.
“This is just a commonsense piece of legislation,” Guest says, adding that it should “gain bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., next Congress.”
Guest joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain who is making the fentanyl coming across the border and how the drugs are getting into the hands of Americans. Guest also addresses concerns over a worsening border crisis as Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows Border Patrol to quickly expel illegal migrants from America, is expected to expire in less than a week.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure today to welcome back to the show vice ranking member of Homeland Security and Mississippi Congressman Michael Guest. Congressman, thank you so much for being here today.
Rep. Michael Guest: Thank you all for having me this afternoon.
Allen: Well, Congressman, we have a fentanyl crisis here in America today. We go back to the year 2020, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] reported that more than 91,000 deaths in America were caused by drug overdoses and opioid drugs like fentanyl were involved in 75% of these overdosed deaths. These numbers, unfortunately, they are continuing to climb. Congressman, who is making these drugs and how are they getting into the hands of the American people?
Guest: Well, what we’re seeing now is that the drug cartels, many of those based in Mexico, are currently the biggest supplier of fentanyl in the United States.
Fentanyl kind of began to come on the scene roughly 2012, we saw fentanyl begin to appear in our communities, but those were in much smaller amounts. Originally, those drugs were actually being manufactured in China and being shipped directly to the United States by drug organizations located there in China.
In 2019, we saw a huge uptick in the fact that drug organizations in Mexico and South America—which had been involved primarily in smuggling marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines—saw fentanyl as an opportunity to diversify their operations. They began purchasing the precursors in China and then actually manufacturing fentanyl in Mexico and smuggling those drugs into the continent of United States.
Allen: And given this crisis, from what we’re seeing, you are taking action. I mean, if we look at this situation, Customs and Border [Protection], they seized more than 14,000 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal 2022. Now, yourself and Maryland Democrat Congressman David Trone, you-all have introduced a bill called the END FENTANYL Act. What exactly would this bill do and how would it help to save lives?
Guest: This bill is just one of several pieces of legislation that we’re looking at, not only introducing, but hopefully next Congress, being able to pass to help begin to address the crisis. The END FENTANYL Act would require Customs and Border [Protection] to develop a comprehensive plan to interdict both narcotics and human smuggling along the southwest border. That plan would then have to be regularly reviewed.
There would be reports issued to Congress, but the fact that we would have a comprehensive plan so that we would have all parts of [the Department of Homeland Security] working together to be on the same page moving forward, I think is incredibly important. This is just a commonsense piece of legislation that should gain bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., next Congress.
Allen: Well, and honestly, I find it fascinating that something like this doesn’t already exist, that we don’t already have a really strategic way to address this crisis as it’s unfolding. How optimistic are you that there will be bipartisan support for the END FENTANYL Act?
Guest: Very optimistic. I think anytime that you’re dealing with things along the southwest border, those issues generally become extremely partisan, particularly when we’re talking about the immigration crisis. As we’re looking at focusing more on the fentanyl aspect and the flow of fentanyl into our communities through the southwest border, I think every member of Congress recognizes the crisis that we’re facing.
I mean, you talked about some of the stats about year over year, the fentanyl seizures continue to increase, each physical year, and we know that of those seizures, we’re probably only apprehending 5% to 10% of the drugs that are being smuggled into the country. So if you look at what we are able to seize versus those drugs that we missed, I mean, we’re missing a huge percentage of that.
And I think a lot of it too goes hand to hand and the fact that at this point, CBP is overwhelmed with an immigrant crisis, which then takes time away from CBP officers, from being able to police and interdict narcotics. They’re having to focus more and more of their time on dealing with immigrants that are coming into the country.
Allen: Well, let’s talk a little bit more about that crisis at the border. There’s a Trump-era policy that has allowed Border Patrol to quickly expel illegal migrants from America. The policy is known as Title 42, but it may be expiring as soon as next week. Talk a little bit about a post-Title 42 border. What does that look like if Border Patrol, really, they no longer have any sort of legal option to expel illegal aliens from the country?
Guest: Yeah. Title 42 was really the last avenue that CBP had to very quickly return migrants back to their country of origin. It was put in place when President [Donald] Trump was still in office. It is part of the public health emergency related to COVID.
And [I] was on a call earlier today with another member of Homeland Security, talking to one of the sector chiefs down on the Texas border. They’re anticipating that the number of daily encounters that they’re seeing could very quickly double in size.
So, if you look at what we’ve seen over the last eight months, we have had 200,000 immigrants apprehended along the border in each of those eight months. If you look back for the last 20 months, the last 20 months, the number of apprehensions have been at least 150,000 each month.
So when you see that we already are at a breaking point right now and then, the number of immigrants could potentially double overnight, it would exacerbate what has become a crisis along the southwest border, and I do believe that if Title 42 goes away, that there is a good likelihood that we could lose situational control of our border.
Allen: California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom, he was actually down at the southern border earlier this week and he told ABC News that California, he used the word “break,” is about to break from the strain of illegal immigration, and he raised concerns about Title 42 ending. Congressman, do you think the Biden administration is listening to concerns from Democrats like Gov. Newsom who are saying what we’re doing right now isn’t working?
Guest: I hope they are because they’ve not listened to Republicans since the president has been in office. We have been talking about this crisis month after month after month. We have led delegation after delegation down to the southern border. I personally have been on three trips to the southwest border this Congress. So when we see that the president who recently visited Arizona would not even visit the border because he said that there were more important matters, it seems to me like this administration is not only ignoring Republicans, but they are also ignoring Democrats.
This crisis is continuing to grow, and if they let Title 42 expire, we will see a wave of illegal immigration that we have never seen in the history of this nation.
Allen: One of the concerns that some Republicans have raised or are raising is that [nongovernmental organizations] are helping to facilitate illegal immigration. We’ve just seen that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, he’s calling on the Texas Attorney General’s Office to investigate the role of nongovernmental organizations, the role that they may be playing in assisting illegal border crossings. What exactly do we know about the role of these nongovernmental organizations within the process of illegal immigration?
Guest: We know that some of these organizations, that they are encouraging people to come across. They’re actually advertising in some of these different countries, encouraging people to begin that trek. We know that once they cross the border, many of the immigrants who are then allowed to fly to the interior, that those flights are being coordinated and paid for by these nongovernment organizations.
Many of these organizations also receive funding from the federal government. So, what we’re seeing is that federal funding is going to the NGOs and then the NGOs are encouraging people to come across the border, and then when they do, they’re doing their best to relocate them into the interior.
That is something that I believe that when Republicans retake control of Congress on Jan. 3, that the Committee on Homeland Security needs to very quickly begin holding hearings and determine just how widespread this abuse has become.
Allen: Well, and you mentioned that the Republicans will be taking control of the House on Jan. 3. What are some of those things in addition to what you’ve just mentioned that Republicans plan to do and some of the hopes that you-all have as far as working with Democrats in the Senate and in the Biden administration in order to secure the border and get this crisis under control once and for all?
Guest: Well, I can tell you that a Homeland that will very aggressively be holding hearings, talking with Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas and many of his top administrators to determine why they have either been unwilling or unable to secure the border. We’ll begin deep diving into why this administration feels like the border is secure.
I mean, I’ve had the opportunity to question Secretary Mayorkas on several different occasions, and each time I have asked him, “Is the border secure and do we have operational control?” He continues to maintain that the border is secure and that we have control, even when presented with the fact that month after month after month, the statistical data does not bear that out.
So, we will very quickly begin to hammer on the administration, to hammer on Secretary Mayorkas, on the failures that we see on the border.
We will, again, as we look at what we’re going to do as far as spending, I think it’s important that we once again begin spending to create some sort of physical barrier along the border. Again, I’ve been to the border, I’ve seen where the wall is successful, places to where particularly we have recently constructed walls. Those walls serve as that barrier. Then, where you have gaps in the wall, that’s where the immigrants continue to flow into the country.
We also must address what we’ve seen with the Customs and Border [Protection], is the fact that that agency suffers from poor morale because they’ve been asked to do a very difficult job. We’ve not paid them of what they need. They’ve not received the compensation that they need. So we’ve got to, as a Congress, build up the morale of … Border Patrol as they are serving on that front line.
Allen: That’s critical. Congressman, apart from the border crisis, what issues are Republicans going to prioritize in the House as we head into the new Congress come Jan. 3?
Guest: Spending is going to be one of the things that we are going to focus on. What can we do to bring down some of the needless, reckless spending that we’ve seen come out of Washington over the last several years? We know that that spending has driven up inflation. Inflation is still at over 7%. We see the impact that inflation has had on everyday Americans.
Also, I believe it is important that we begin looking at what we can do to once again become energy-independent. Under President Trump, we were able to be a net exporter of energy. We’ve seen under this president, because of restrictions and regulations that have been put in place, that’s no longer the case. We see how important energy is. We see Russia using energy as a weapon in their war with Ukraine.
So those are going to be two of the key priorities that we are going to be dealing with very early when Republicans retake the majority on Jan. 3.
Allen: Congressman, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you joining us and we hope that you have a wonderful Christmas.
Guest: Yes ma’am, you too. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
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