May 10, 2021, began like any other afternoon for 15-year-old Michael Stabile. The freshman at Lake City High School in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho — who had just been promoted at his after-school job at Pokéworks restaurant — came home, greeted his parents, and “went to into his room and turned on his music like he normally does,” according to his sister, Kristin. But as evening drew on, his parents checked on him, only to find him passed out in his room, unresponsive. Though they administered CPR, they were unable to revive him. The teenager died of an overdose after taking one or more counterfeit prescription pills secretly laced with fentanyl.
While Stabile was irreplaceable, law enforcement made him part of a grim statistic: The teen was one of five people to suffer a fatal overdose of fentanyl-contaminated pills in Kootenai County during an eight-day period.
“It could’ve been anybody’s child,” warns Kristin. “It can be anyone’s child.”
Patricia Saldivar of Texas agrees. Her 22-year-old daughter, Cassandra, died during a party in June when she took what she thought was Percocet, but was in fact a counterfeit pill that contained a lethal amount of fentanyl. Patricia, who now must raise her two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, rented a billboard across from AT&T Stadium in Arlington (the home of the Dallas Cowboys), with a picture of her daughter and the message, “1 pill. That’s all it took.” Patricia said she rented this memorial in a highly trafficked area because she’s trying to “spread awareness so that nobody has to go through the same thing I did.”
Officials say it’s impossible to overestimate the deadly impact of fentanyl, in any of its forms, on America’s young people — and that lax border policies implemented by the Biden administration are reaping a deadly harvest nationwide.
Fentanyl: the number-one killer of teenagers in some areas
Too many young adults — and minors — are already suffering the same fate as Michael and Cassandra. “[T]he group of people that it’s hitting is the 16 to 24-year-old group because, again, it appears to be a safe drug, they think it’s a pharmaceutical drug,” said Tarrant County, Texas, Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn in June. Neighboring Arizona sees a similar pattern. “This isn’t a figure of speech; this is reality: Fentanyl overdoses have replaced car accidents as the leading cause of death for people 19 and younger in Pima County,” Arizona, said the state’s governor, Doug Ducey (R), during a press conference with other Republican governors in Mission, Texas, on October 6. “Pima County deputy sheriffs are responding to a call involving fentanyl every 40 hours.”
Yet, as Stabile’s case proves, the problem is far from confined to America’s southwest border. Opioids caused about three-quarters of the nation’s 93,000 overdose deaths last year, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Fentanyl, which is 80-100 times stronger than morphine, has become law enforcement’s greatest narcotics concern.
The DEA took the unusual step of issuing a public warning last month as it saw the number of imitation prescription pills exploding nationwide. Federal officials say they seized more than 9.5 million fentanyl-laced pills designed to look like such prescription drugs as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, and Xanax — and 40% of those tested contained a potentially lethal overdose amount of fentanyl. Agents took another 1.8 million pills off the streets in August and September, enough to kill 700,000 people.
As America’s border crisis has intensified since January 20, so has the counterfeit prescription crisis. It takes only two milligrams of fentanyl to cause an overdose — enough to fit on the tip of a pencil — and the DEA reports, “Approximately 666,666 counterfeit pills can be manufactured from 1 kilogram of pure fentanyl.” Every pound of fentanyl could kill almost 227,000 people. Border Patrol agents have seized 10,469 pounds of fentanyl this fiscal year, a nearly five-fold increase from 2019 levels, according to statistics made available by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
For instance, Arizona’s Pinal County reported intercepting zero counterfeit pills in 2018 but has seized 1.1 million this year — and counting. The supply has inflated to the point that the price of fake pills has plunged from $50 a gram to $20 a gram, according to Sheriff Waybourn.
Law enforcement officials say an elaborate criminal enterprise stretching across the globe fuels America’s overdose issue.
The criminal connection: How China, Mexico, and international drug traffickers do it
The transnational criminal organizations that traffic fentanyl into the U.S. body politic partner with suppliers half a world away. It begins in China, which remains “the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States,” according to a DEA report released last January. Mexican traffickers import fentanyl, which has a 90% purity level, or the components necessary to produce the deadly opioid from China or India. Pure fentanyl is trafficked across the border, but cartels have found selling imitation prescriptions is even easier — and more profitable. They operate pill mills that make convincing-looking prescription drugs, add a dab of fentanyl, and sell them online to unwitting consumers. “Traffickers can typically purchase a kilogram of fentanyl powder for a few thousand dollars from a Chinese supplier, transform it into hundreds of thousands of pills, and sell the counterfeit pills for millions of dollars in profit,” said the DEA. Consumers who are not killed finds themselves with an unshakable addiction to one of the world’s most addictive substances … and become the cartels’ repeat customers.
Many of the organizations that operate these networks also oversee the human trafficking of illegal aliens into the United States. “DEA reporting continues to indicate the Sinaloa and the New Generation Jalisco (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación or CJNG) cartels are likely the primary trafficking groups responsible for smuggling fentanyl into the United States from Mexico,” the DEA reported. These transnational criminal organizations “are known to control the trafficking corridors in Mexico that connect to California and Arizona, indicating drugs passing through these associated areas would need to be approved by these organizations.”
To combat addiction and overdose, law enforcement must focus on the source, police officers say. “[T]he drug cartels in Mexico should be the number one enemy of American law enforcement, plain and simple,” said Sheriff Waybourn. “We need to draw a line and protect our children.” His cry is echoed by federal officials like Houston DEA Special Agent Daniel Comeaux, who told the Daily Caller that “everyone needs to understand drug cartels are vicious, they’re violent and it’s all about the dollar bill. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2021 or 2020 or 2016, drug cartels are going to get their drugs across our border.” Officials from the other side of the country confirm Comeaux’s analysis. “From 2020 to 2021, the Idaho State Police Forensic Lab has seen more than a 562% increase in the amount of fentanyl,” Idaho Police Sergeant Curt Sproat told KMVT-TV.
“Meth and fentanyl are the most serious growing drug threats in Idaho,” said Idaho Governor Brad Little (R). “And there is a direct tie to the loose border with Mexico.” Governor Little said Idaho’s growing fentanyl problem only made him more certain of his recent decision to send five Idaho State Police troopers to help enforce immigration law at the Southern border.
The Biden administration needs to do the same, he said.
The solution: Fixing America’s porous border
The U.S. border with Mexico has devolved into a full-blown crisis since President Biden took office. Border Patrol agents have encountered 1,741,956 illegal immigrants since last October 1 — the largest number in U.S. history — and that does not include those who evaded detection. An unenforced border invites criminal activity, including drug-running, officials say. “Just think about how many drugs are slipping through the cracks, and slipping into the bloodstreams, in our communities,” said Governor Ducey.
“We have these porous borders. These [drug] cartels figure out … not only how to get into Texas, California and Arizona, but all across the country and build up networks,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told conservative talk radio host John Catsimatidis on October 3. Local law enforcement find themselves “under enormous pressure because of the drugs.”
Tired of that pressure, 26 Republican governors have released a 10-point plan to secure the Southern border and stanch the flow of deadly opioids into American communities. Their border blueprint includes everything from measures no Democratic administration would ever embrace — such as finishing President Donald Trump’s border wall, deporting all criminal aliens, and notifying the communities where the Biden administration resettles illegal aliens — to other measures pragmatic Democrats could easily enact, such as increasing the number of officers at the border and reinstating Trump-era agreements with nations in the Northern Triangle to stop the flow of illegal immigration before it reaches the United States. So far, the Biden administration has willingly implemented only one of these proposals: a provision known as Title 42, which allow agents to remove illegal immigrants who may pose a public health threat. A court has also ordered the administration to reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocols, known as the “stay in Mexico” policy; Biden administration officials say they will appeal the ruling.
All parties, including some members of the Biden administration, acknowledge that the situation at the border is unsustainable and lacks public support. Polls show that only 23% of Americans approve of the way the administration is handling the border. Governor Little said he and his fellow governors have told the Biden administration point-blank “what you’ve been doing for the last six months, eight months, has not been working.” Americans are losing their lives due to lax border enforcement aimed at pleasing the president’s hard-Left base.
“We’ve got to do something different,” he said.
This article has been revised for clarity.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.