President Biden on Tuesday met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the White House, where he touted efforts to disrupt fentanyl and human trafficking — while calling for help from the region.
Lopez Obrador was in Washington D.C. after snubbing the Summit of the Americas in June, during which nations signed a compact on migration and the U.S. issued a lengthy list of funding and visa commitments. Migration, including ways to solve the crisis at the southern border, was expected to be near the top of the agenda for the two men.
Republicans had called on Biden to raise the issue of fentanyl — which is deadly in tiny doses and primarily is smuggled in across the Mexican land border — amid rising seizures at the border and an increase in overdose deaths.
Biden, in his remarks, said the U.S. is “accelerating our efforts to disrupt the trafficking of fentanyl and other drugs, that are literally killing, fentanyl kills people.”
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The drug crisis comes amid a broader migrant crisis where massive numbers of migrants are hitting the border each month. More than 239,000 migrants were encountered in May alone as numbers have continued to surge.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 10,586 pounds of the drug in FY 2021. That is up from 4,558 pounds seized in FY 2020 and 2,633 pounds seized in FY 2019. As of May, the CBP has seized more than 7,000 pounds of the drug in fiscal year 2022, suggesting it is on track to exceed last year’s massive numbers.
While it is unclear how much fentanyl is actually getting into the U.S., the number of deaths related to the drug is increasing. The Drug Enforcement Administration warned earlier this year of a “nationwide spike” in fentanyl-related overdoses.
But Biden touted recently efforts by his administration to disrupt both human and drug smuggling.
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“We’ve had a major anti smuggling operation underway since April targeting human smugglers who traffic in people, drugs and weapons. Toward this effort we deployed 1,300 additional personnel, conducted 20,000 disruption operations, and we’ve made over 3,000 arrests, all since April,” he said.
Additionally, he noted collaboration with Mexican officials to help disrupt smuggling operations, but he said more help was needed from the region — noting also the recent deaths of more than 50 migrants in an abandoned vehicle in San Antonio.
“But as you know, Mr. President, we need every country in the region to join us in tracking this multi billion dollar smuggling industry. that’s preying on our most vulnerable, including the fifty three souls who died in a tractor trailer in San Antonio last month,” he said.
The Biden administration has been taking a lot of heat for its handling of the border crisis, and Republicans had pushed Biden to bring up both migration and the fentanyl crisis in the White House meetings.
“If I were looking at an agenda that I think would be appropriate for that meeting, fentanyl would be at the very top of the list,” Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., said in an interview with Fox News Digital last month. “Human trafficking would come right after that — border security and national security issues that we share with Mexico.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody told Fox that Biden should “demand assistance from President Obrador in dismantling the cartels and snuffing out the synthetic opioid labs in his country that are killing hundreds of Americans, even children, every day.”