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How the Border Crisis Harms Nebraska

How the Border Crisis Harms Nebraska

By Governor Pete Ricketts

April 12, 2022

 

Governor’s official photo here.

 

It’s 965 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska to the border town of Del Rio, Texas.  But that doesn’t mean our nation’s border crisis isn’t felt a thousand miles away.  The Biden-Harris Administration’s failure to secure our broken southern border has caused a host of issues.  It’s weakened our national security and overwhelmed our court system.  It’s strained our economy.  Most devastating, however, is the human cost it’s imposed.  Our failure to secure the southern border has enabled sophisticated drug trafficking to run rampant.  These deadly drugs are killing Nebraskans, leaving a wake of devastation throughout our communities.  

 

On April 6th, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a letter to all local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to warn them of the uptick in mass-overdose events across the United States.  Omaha, Nebraska was one of the seven mass-overdose events in January through March 2022 that caused alarm.  In February, four Nebraskans overdosed at the same apartment complex after ingesting cocaine that they did not know was mixed with fentanyl.  Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.  Drug cartels in Mexico are mixing it into common street drugs to make them cheaper, more addictive, and more powerful.

It’s also making them far more deadly.

 

Taryn Lee Griffith was just 24 years old when she died of an overdose last December.  She took a prescription pill while out with friends, not knowing it was a counterfeit that had been made with fentanyl.  “Once you met Taryn, you’d never forget her.  She had a personality that drew people’s attention the moment she walked into a room, and a big heart for others,” her father Mike said when describing his daughter.  “She took what she thought was a Percocet while out with friends.  She didn’t know it was a counterfeit pill containing fentanyl.  It cost a wonderful young woman her life and two girls their mother.” 

 

Taryn’s youngest daughter was just six months old when her mother died.  She and her five-year-old half-sister will have to get to know Taryn through photos and stories told by family and friends.  Illicit drugs rob children of their parents and parents of their children.  They rob communities of friends, coworkers, and neighbors.  And fentanyl is now a hidden ingredient in these drugs.  The DEA is warning all law enforcement to treat every street drug they encounter as if it has fentanyl in it, because it likely does.

 

Mexican cartels have taken advantage of weak border enforcement to surge the flow of fentanyl in the U.S.  In January, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a 1,066% increase in the amount of fentanyl confiscated in South Texas in the 2021 fiscal year.  We’ve seen a staggering increase here in Nebraska as well.  Last year, Omaha DEA seized 26 kilograms of fentanyl.  That’s more than ten times the amount seized in 2020, and it’s the equivalent of 13 million lethal doses. 

 

The problem is only getting worse.  As of late March, Omaha DEA had already taken over 100,000 fentanyl pills off Nebraska’s streets this year.  That’s more in under three months than Omaha DEA seized in all of 2021.  In just one day, troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol found 25,000 fentanyl pills after stopping a vehicle for speeding on I-80 near Lexington.

 

The influx of fentanyl isn’t limited to our biggest cities.  In Phelps County, law enforcement found fake prescription pills that tested positive for fentanyl while investigating two deaths earlier this year.  This prompted Phelps County agencies to issue a public safety alert last month to warn residents about the drug.  The Nebraska State Patrol and Holdrege Police Department are conducting an investigation to track down the drug supplier. 

 

From 2014 to 2019, most fentanyl entered the U.S. by international mail directly from China.  Now, it’s being shipped from China to Mexico, manufactured into pills at illegal labs, and then smuggled across the border.  With border agents and local law enforcement overwhelmed by the surge of illegal immigration, it’s easier than ever for cartels to bring fentanyl into the U.S.

 

The failed policies of the Biden-Harris Administration have exacerbated our country’s drug problem and caused a humanitarian crisis on the border.  Instead of tightening border security, the President is making it even easier to enter the country illegally by getting rid of Title 42.  The Biden Administration has announced its intention to end the policy on May 23rd.

 

Title 42 has been in place since March 2020.  To protect public health, it authorizes border agents to deport illegal immigrants as soon as they’re taken into custody.  Through February 2022, over 1.7 million illegal immigrants have been removed under Title 42.  Most Title 42 expulsions involve single adults, the most likely demographic to smuggle drugs into the country.

 

Ending Title 42 incentivizes illegal immigration by decreasing the likelihood of deportation.  As more people attempt to cross the border illegally, there will be additional strain on our federal, state, and local law enforcement along the border.  These agencies are already stretched thin.  Adding to their workload will further diminish their capacity to stop drug trafficking and will create conditions where drug cartels can thrive. 

 

I urge the Biden Administration to reconsider its decision to terminate Title 42.  We should not end the policy without first addressing how to stem the tide of illegal immigration that’s likely to follow suit.  If the President fails to do so, our fentanyl epidemic will only get worse.

 

If you have questions about this topic, or any other issue, please email pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.  

 

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