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The Fentanyl Trail: China to Mexico to American Mortuaries

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Twitter/Port Director Michael W. Humphries

It starts in China, runs through Mexico and ends in mortuaries all across America. This is the fentanyl trail -- that, so far, our government has failed to block.


In 2003, according to the National Institutes of Health, 1,400 Americans died by overdosing on what that agency calls "synthetic opioids other than methadone (primarily fentanyl)." By 2008, President George W. Bush's last full year in office, that death count had climbed to 2,306. By 2016, President Barack Obama's last full year, it had climbed to 19,413. By 2020, President Donald Trump's last full year, it had climbed to 56,516.

In 2021, President Joe Biden's first year in office, it climbed again to 70,601.

In the first half of 2022, fatal fentanyl overdoses continued to rise in the United States. "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl-related substances) may have resulted in almost 73,000 overdose deaths between July 2021 and June 2022," the Congressional Research Service stated in a report in published on Dec. 8, 2022.

That means that an average of approximately 200 Americans were dying every day by overdosing on "synthetic opioids" that were "primarily fentanyl-related substances."

This fentanyl is not manufactured in the United States. It is imported here -- and the Biden administration knows exactly how that happens.

As the Congressional Research Service stated in its December report, the People's Republic of China is the initial source for the chemicals used to make the fentanyl smuggled into the United States.


"In the years immediately prior to 2019, China was the primary source of U.S.-bound illicit fentanyl, fentanyl-related substances, and production equipment," said CRS. "PRC traffickers supplied fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances directly to the United States via international mail and express consignment operations."

"Today," says CRS, "Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) are largely responsible for the production of U.S.-consumed illicit fentanyl, using PRC-sourced primary materials, including precursor chemicals that are not internationally controlled (and are correspondingly legal to produce and export out of China). According to DEA assessments cited by the U.S-China Economic and Security Review Commission in 2021, PRC traffickers and money launderers appear to have increased cooperation with Mexican cartels."

How do the Mexican cartels get the fentanyl they produce in Mexico -- with chemicals made in China -- across the border into the United States?

An indictment released in April by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York brought charges against members of the Sinaloa Cartel. It indicated that this crime syndicate brought fentanyl across the U.S.-Mexico border at the ports of entry, between the ports of entry, above the ports of entry and in the oceans beyond the ports of entry.

"Members and affiliates of the Cartel," says the indictment, "purchase and import fentanyl precursor chemicals from China directly or through third countries, manufacture fentanyl in laboratories in the mountains of Sinaloa, move that fentanyl across the border into the United States, distribute that fentanyl through various networks operating across the United States, and launder the proceeds back to Mexico."


Their evil business depends on a U.S. border that is not secured.

"The methods through which Cartel traffickers import fentanyl across the border into the United States are diverse," says the indictment.

"Most often, the Cartel's fentanyl crosses U.S. borders at ports of entry, for example, concealed in secret compartments of cars, disguised amongst goods in tractor-trailers, hidden in luggage on planes, obscured through fake paperwork in shipping containers, or secreted on or in the bodies of drug mules," says the indictment.

"The Cartel also imports its fentanyl into the United States away from ports of entry by, among other means, boats, private planes, tunnels and ATVs," says the indictment.

"For example," it says, "a roughly one-mile-long tunnel dug underneath the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona has been used by Cartel traffickers carrying fentanyl loads. Originating under a small office on the Mexican side of the border, this tunnel leads directly into a small office on the U.S. side of the border, allowing Cartel traffickers to come and go freely from both locations as purported employees of either office, without raising any suspicion. This tunnel is one of many secret tunnels that provide quick and covert passage for Cartel traffickers, who must crawl through these small tunnels on their knees while carrying fentanyl loads."

"Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49," says the indictment.


If a foreign army tried to come across our border and kill tens of thousands of Americans, Congress would authorize the use of military force. It would demand that the commander in chief use that force to stop them.

It is a good thing for the Justice Department to indict members of the Sinaloa Cartel and those cooperating with them. Individuals guilty of smuggling fentanyl should spend the rest of their lives in prison.

But the U.S.-Mexico border must also be secured.

President Biden, who refused to finish President Trump's border wall, has a moral duty to secure that border. If he does not, the fentanyl trail that runs from China through Mexico to American mortuaries will remain open.

And, once again, our president will have shown a disregard for human life.

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