Implementing a new law to punish traffickers of fentanyl and declaring deaths from the drug as a health crisis could curb the damage it is doing to the country.
The Epoch Times spoke to Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) about the growing fentanyl crisis in the United States. The Republican lawmaker represents Louisiana’s 3rd congressional district, which includes Lafayette Parish. According to the local coroner, there were 32 drug-related deaths in 2015, and fentanyl was not associated with any of them. However, by 2021, the number of deaths rose to 136 and fentanyl was responsible for 101.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fentanyl is the driving force of a deadly nationwide epidemic. Preliminary data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that fentanyl was involved in 77 percent of overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, accounting for about 71,000 deaths.
“The fentanyl crisis the country is facing right now must be confronted at the local, state, and federal level,” Higgins said.
The country has to start working together, he said, adding that the nation needs to confront the border crisis and influx of fentanyl “without abusing law enforcement jurisdictional authority, without abusing sovereignty, [and] without abusing rights.”
“It all has to be done while operating within the parameters of the law and the Constitution,” said Higgins. Fentanyl trafficking, in particular, must be “attacked passionately and aggressively,” he added.
Title 42 Reinterpreted
The Biden administration had hoped to end Title 42 by the end of May. Title 42 was the Trump-era initiative put in place in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, allowing illegal immigrants to be quickly turned away at the southern U.S. border rather than processed at immigration detention facilities under Title 8 immigration law.
However, a Texas judge recently blocked the cancellation of the public health order that has been used to expel illegal migrants.
While Higgins is pleased with the extension, he said it is time for a “reinterpretation of Title 42 within the parameters of the Constitution.” According to the lawmaker, “the fentanyl crisis can now be more effectively defined as a health crisis than the COVID pandemic.”
“With regard to Title 42 enforcement,” Higgins said, “the definition of health crisis needs to be expanded to include the fentanyl crisis, [because] overdoes are certainly a threat to the health of tens of thousands of people.”
Stop the Flood
Higgins said, “Something has to be done to fight against the fentanyl entering [the United States] through the southern border.”
“We have lost operational control of the southern border months ago, and fentanyl is entering the country at unprecedented levels—and there’s no end in sight,” he added.
Higgins is supporting legislation, like H.R.6439, which would “make it very painful to traffic illicit fentanyl.” The Fentanyl Trafficker Elimination Act would make the trafficking of specific amounts of fentanyl punishable by life imprisonment.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) introduced the bill in January. The bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Higgins is one of nine co-sponsors of the bill.
He pointed out that “it does not take a lot of fentanyl by volume for traffickers to bring enough to create a large volume of street-level pills.”
“There’s enough coming across the border to produce millions of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills going into every nook and cranny of the country.” In 2021, for example, there were over 9.5 million counterfeit pills seized by the DEA. And according to the DEA’s office in Phoenix, 40 percent of counterfeit pills seized in Arizona contain a lethal dose of fentanyl.
Higgins places the blame on weak border policies that are allowing illegal aliens with criminal intent to cross the border. “These are not the little families or people that cross the border and go find a border patrol agent to turn themselves in to begin their processing for asylum,” he said.
“Instead, I’m talking about the ones that run, which tells me they have bad intentions and are likely plugged into a criminal network.”
“Kids are dying and it must be stopped,” lamented Higgins. “Life in prison is what some of these criminals deserve.”
Reporting by The Epoch Times.