The flood of fentanyl — an extremely potent synthetic opioid — into the U.S. and, by extension, into West Virginia is alarming and something we should all be concerned about. As little as 2 mg can be fatal, and illicit drug manufacturers have been adding fentanyl to more traditional narcotics such as cocaine and heroin, or even fake oxycodone pills, to ultimately increase profit. However, the people using — and sometimes even those selling — the drugs are usually unaware of the presence of fentanyl. That is a major contributing factor to the rise of overdoses here in the Mountain State and across the nation.
This is a serious issue, which makes it all the more disgusting when politicians use it as a smoke screen to legitimize blatantly partisan, anti-immigrant policies and actions.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey used our tax dollars to make a trip to Texas under the guise of “witness[ing] firsthand the situation on the ground that law enforcement faces every day as they try to stop both illegal immigrants and the fentanyl that are flowing across our borders.”
He threw the word “fentanyl” in there to justify his visit, but considering his press release advertising the trip made sure to highlight his lawsuit to have the “Remain in Mexico” policy, it’s safe to say he’s more concerned with the anti-immigration agenda that has become a core part of the Republican Party’s ideology.
The “Remain in Mexico” policy has nothing to do with drugs traveling over the border. Its purpose was to confine asylum seekers to Mexico while they awaited their court date. It has absolutely nothing to do with slowing or stopping drug trafficking. Any excuse Morrisey might make about asylum seekers carrying drugs over the border is unfounded: According to the 2021 report “Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl Entering the United States” — which pulls its data from the CDC, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Homeland Security — the role migrants crossing the border play in drug trafficking is negligible.
Drug traffickers do bring fentanyl over the southern border, and that is a problem, but when they do, they tend to bring it hidden in vehicles or smuggled through underground tunnels. Very rarely do they enlist ordinary immigrants or asylum seekers to operate as drug mules.
But illegal narcotics and substances are also frequently brought into the U.S. by mail service, according to the aforementioned report and a 2019 Washington Post article. The Post article details how international fentanyl sellers (specifically from China) would instruct U.S. customers to request their packages be shipped with the U.S. Postal Service because the parcels weren’t as closely monitored and were harder to track back to the seller compared to shipments handled by UPS or FedEx. In addition, the 2021 report states the most potent fentanyl usually arrives in America by mail.
The opioid crisis and fentanyl’s contribution to the avalanche of overdose deaths in recent years deserve the attention of our state attorney general. But politicking trips to Texas, collecting anti-immigration soundbites and shifting the blame from real criminal to immigrants looking for their own chance at the American dream do nothing to help solve the very real problem plaguing West Virginia and the rest of America.