David Bier and Jeffrey Singer of the Cato Institute Pushback Against False Fentanyl/Border Narrative in GOP Attacks
Washington, DC – Republicans’ relentless political fear mongering and lies about the border includes a heavy focus on fentanyl and attempts to blame opioid-related overdose deaths on so-called “open border.” As America’s Voice has been highlighting, fentanyl is a serious and urgent issue, but it is NOT about migrants seeking asylum or evidence of “open borders,” as the GOP claims. Republicans’ false political narrative distracts from the urgent need for multifaceted policy solutions to address the opioid crisis to save American lives.
In the Washington Post, David Bier of the Cato Institute and Jeffrey Singer, a doctor and senior fellow at Cato, write an important op-ed, “No, Biden’s immigration policies are not to blame for the fentanyl crisis” pushing back against the false narratives on display this election cycle. Their full op-ed is worth reading and includes the following excerpts:
“Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid responsible for 88 percent of opioid overdose deaths in the United States, is showing up in campaign ads across the country. The message is simple: Fentanyl would disappear if illegal immigration disappeared.
This is wrong. If anything, border crackdowns have exacerbated the crisis.
Much of this narrative places blame on President Biden for less restrictive immigration policies, which have supposedly caused the highly potent fentanyl to “pour across our border.” But this misunderstands the obvious reality about the drug: Because it is so potent, a large supply can be easily concealed. That makes it easy to enter the country through legal border crossings.
…You might think that maybe what we need is to restrict both legal and illegal crossings. That’s exactly what occurred during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The government banned asylum seekers, expelled illegal crossers to Mexico and restricted legal entries only to “essential” travelers. Biden kept the travel restriction until this year, and expulsions to Mexico continue.
Yet that didn’t improve the overdose crisis. Instead, cartels quickly switched from smuggling heroin to the far more dangerous fentanyl, allowing traffickers to supply the same illicit market with far fewer crossings. In those years, fentanyl’s share of the combined heroin-fentanyl border seizures increased from one-third before the pandemic to 90 percent. Fentanyl overdose deaths nearly doubled from 2019 to 2021.
The harsher the crackdown, the more smugglers shift to more potent, easier-to-conceal drugs, such as fentanyl.
…Fentanyl is entering the United States because consumers — almost all of them U.S. citizens — are willing to pay for illicit opioids. As long as there is demand, supply will follow. That’s the lesson of the past century of prohibition — first of alcohol, then drugs. Policymakers must focus on helping people with addictions, not on banning immigration or throwing more taxpayer dollars at ineffective border measures.”
According to Zachary Mueller, Political Director for America’s Voice:
“Fentanyl is an urgent and serious issue, but it is NOT an immigration issue, as this important analysis explains. Our America’s Voice ad tracking project has identified over 500 paid communications this midterm cycle from Republicans and their allies that use the false fentanyl attack, many of which are repeated in stump speeches and on the debate stage. These false Republican attacks are doubly concerning: they demagogue migrants and they forestall a conversation about real solutions to the devastating effect of synthetic fentanyl and other opioids that are killing so many in our country. We need solutions, not scapegoats.”
- Read the recent America’s Voice memo: “Fentanyl is Not an Immigration Issue or Evidence of a ‘Open Border,’ as GOP Political Attacks Claim”