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ANALYSIS: Biden’s Border Crisis Goes Way Beyond Migrants

(Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Whether his administration wants to admit it or not, President Joe Biden is currently presiding over a crisis at America’s southern border. However, the crisis goes much further than the mere fact of illegal migrants. Illegal drugs and people on terrorist watch lists are crossing the border, as well.

Since Biden came into office in January, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have averaged more than 130,000 encounters with migrants on the country’s southwest border, CBP data shows. But the effects of this border crisis go well beyond crowded migrant facilities. Some of the migrants attempting to gain entry into the United States have been found on terrorist watch lists and pose national security risks. Illegal drugs that have caused thousands of deaths in the United States are also making their way across the border in incredibly high numbers, and could exacerbate another one of America’s chronic issues: the opioid crisis.

The increase in migrant encounters is drastic when compared to fiscal year (FY) 2018 figures, which show the CBP averaged just over 43,000 encounters per month that fiscal year. Thus far, the migrant crisis is outpacing the migrant crisis experienced during former President Donald Trump’s tenure in office in 2019, during which only May 2019 surpassed 130,000 migrant encounters, according to CBP data. The crisis has gotten so bad that the U.S. government is flying migrants across the country and even putting some up in hotels in order to alleviate and disperse the pressure on the migration system.

Some of these migrants, and the U.S. government’s policies to process and transport them, could also have national security implications.

In March, Axios reported that in FY 2021, four individuals arrested at the southern border were in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Terrorist Screening Database, which monitors anyone “known to be or are reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activities.”

Subsequently, the CBP announced in April that two Yemeni men on the FBI’s terrorism watchlist were arrested attempting to cross the southern border after dark. The first, a 33-year-old, was arrested at about 1 a.m. on Jan. 29 three miles from the Calexico Port of Entry. The second, a 26-year-old male, was arrested March 30 near the Calexico Port of Entry as well.

Brett Velicovich, a former military intelligence analyst, responded to reports of terrorists seeking entrance at America’s southern border on Fox News’ “Watters’ World.” Velicovich claimed that terrorist organizations “are constantly plotting to conduct attacks against Americans and harm Americans,” and, thus, “It’s natural for them to think of ways that they can infiltrate this border.”

“All it takes is one of these terrorists to infiltrate our border to be able to wreak havoc across the United States,” Velicovich went on to say. “The disappointing fact of all this is that the Biden administration loves to deny this border crisis. They love to downplay this terrorism threat along the southern border,” he added.

The border crisis is also leading to a surge in illegal substances making their way across the border, and risks further exacerbating America’s opioid and substance abuse epidemic that has ravaged large swaths of the country for the past two decades.

Patients who have been prescribed opiates all too often become addicted to their medication, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The NIDA estimates that 21% to 29% of patients prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain misuse them, and 8 to 12% develop an opioid use disorder. Around 5% of individuals who misuse prescription opioids will turn to heroin to satisfy their addiction, the NDIA claimed. A shocking 80% of heroin users first misused prescription opioids before becoming addicted to heroin.

In 2019 alone, almost 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, NIDA data shows. Another estimated 1.7 million Americans suffer from substance abuse disorders that stem from prescription opioid pain relievers, according to statistics gathered by the NIDA in 2017.

In the first quarter of 2021, Fox News reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data showed agents seized 2,098 pounds of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine that is abused by opioid-addicted individuals, according to the NIDA. The more than 2,000 seized pounds of fentanyl marked a 233% increase from the 629 pounds of fentanyl seized over the same timespan in 2020, according to Fox News. (RELATED: CBP Agents Find Buckets Of Meth Valued At More Than $4 Million)

As of April, CBP personnel had seized more fentanyl in fiscal year 2021 than they had in all of fiscal year 2020, ABC News reported. Drug seizure statistics from the CBP show that just over half way through FY 2021, 6,494 pounds of fentanyl had been seized by the CBP, which is already over 35% higher than the 4,776 total pounds of fentanyl seized in FY 2020. If the CBP continues to average seizing over 900 pounds per month for the rest of FY 2021, border personnel will have captured well over 10,000 pounds of fentanyl by September’s end and would be a nearly fourfold increase from just two years prior in FY 2019.

The CBP has also seized more cocaine than in FY 2020 with more than 62,000 pounds seized thus far this fiscal year, the agency’s data shows.

Some may retort that the reason these smuggling seizures are increasing at such a rate in FY 2021 compared to last is primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when Trump also faced a migrant crisis in FY 2019, drug seizures of fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine all experienced upticks as well. Furthermore, out of the five main drugs tracked by the CBP in its drug seizure statistics, three (methamphetamine, marijuana and fentanyl) all experienced increases from FY 2019 to FY 2020 after the border crisis in 2019.

However, it is important to note that cocaine seizures would have stayed relatively steady from FY 2019 to FY 2020 had CBP not seized 17.5 tons of cocaine worth $1.1 billion in a single bust in Philadelphia.

The data doesn’t seem to indicate the level of drug seizures are seasonally connected in recent years despite how hot the southern border gets during the summer months. It’s possible, barring any dramatic efforts taken by the administration to scale back the border crisis, the opposite might actually occur as the summer of 2021 coincides with many cities reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the Biden administration fails to recognize how the current border crisis could beget further crises, it’s no exaggeration to suggest American lives will be put at risk.