“When it comes to drugs and fentanyl, the GOP is letting the carnage and scourge of drugs continue unabated, while opposing concrete measures to address opioid deaths.”
Washington, DC – Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released a new ad yesterday that underscores how the GOP’s attempt to win back political power remains heavily premised on anti-immigrant lies and xenophobic dog whistles, including on the false linkage between the scourge of fentanyl and the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers at our southern border. Even after the Buffalo white supremacist killings underscored the dangers of nativist lies about “open borders” and the white replacement conspiracy theory, Republicans are continuing to double down on their false and dangerous claims in an effort to stoke fear and seize power.
- The new Ron Johnson/NRSC ad starts with the lie that “Biden opened America’s borders…” As a reminder, high volumes of border encounters and apprehensions during the last 15 months under Biden are the marks of the exact opposite of an “open border.” Moreover, border “surges” have happened under Obama, Trump and Biden – in 2014, 2016, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
- The next lie in the ad comes in the second half of the sentence “… increasing the flow of deadly drugs into our communities.” If Republicans were actually concerned about Americans dying from drugs, they would go where the drugs are, not where they aren’t. 99% of all drugs interdicted at the border are brought in through ports of entry by cars, trucks, boats, planes – not by migrants and asylum seekers.
- Senator Johnson, along with most Republicans, voted against the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which among other things, invests in infrastructure at ports of entry where most drugs are seized (see below).
See some of the fact check and analysis below, debunking the false linkage Republicans are pushing between migrants seeking asylum and fentanyl deaths we’ve seen in hundreds of Republican ads and tweets in recent months (We are tracking Republican campaign ads linking fentanyl to immigration along with all of their other immigration-related dog whistles at https://gopadtracker.com/):
- CBP data: migrants are not the source of fentanyl to U.S.: As Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council noted, “I cataloged every CBP press release and official Twitter post about fentanyl seizures at the southern border over the last 6 months. The data makes it crystal clear—it’s not migrants … Only TWO publicly-reported seizures were linked to people crossing between ports of entry.” That is compared with at least 80 seizures at ports of entry, mainly in passenger vehicles or busses.
- DEA and CBP: fentanyl comes through via ports of entry: As Reichlin-Melnick points out, “According to the DEA, “[T]he most common method employed [by cartels] involves smuggling illicit drugs through U.S. POEs [ports of entry] in passenger vehicles with concealed compartments or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor-trailers.” Earlier analysis of U.S. CBP reports found that of 796 pounds of fentanyl seizures captured at the border, all but one pound was captured at an official port of entry or vehicle checkpoint rather than on the backs of asylum seekers or migrants
- Additional expert testimony debunks GOP linkage: A recent op-ed in The Hill, “Reducing illegal drugs in the US requires the tools of trade, not ‘war’” by Kathleen Frydl, an award-winning political historian and author of “The Drug Wars in America, 1940-1973,” noted: “We hear a lot about fentanyl crossing the southern border with Mexico, mostly from Republicans who claim this is the result of ‘open borders.’ Often these remarks make mention of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers also crossing the border, implying that drug trafficking organizations recruit them to smuggle this dangerous drug into the United States. While it is true that the majority of fentanyl bound for the United States comes from Mexico, the organizations that traffic in it do not risk their product on desperate people facing steep odds and a dangerous crossing. Instead, fentanyl comes to the United States via ostensibly legal crossings at designated ports of entry. It arrives by car, truck, and train, on transport missions methodically arranged to arouse the least possible suspicion.”
- Four Pinocchios to GOP lies attempting to link border and migrants and the scourge of fentanyl: Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler issued Four Pinocchios to an earlier version of Republican lies linking Biden’s border policies and fentanyl and claims that intentionally lax border security measures where being used by the President and Democrats to inflict harm on white voters,, noting of J.D. Vance’s politicized claims: “In just about every way, Vance’s outrage at Biden is misplaced. Fentanyl seizures have increased, not fallen, under Biden. Overdose deaths jumped sharply under Trump. As for Trump voters being supposedly targeted, people of color die at a higher rate from opioids than Whites. It’s bad enough to suggest that the president is deliberately trying to kill off Trump voters with illicit drugs. But it’s especially appalling to make such hyperbolic claims based on zero facts.”
- Making the GOP’s nativist political attacks on fentanyl all the worse? Most Republicans, including Sen. Ron Johnson, voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included $430 million for CBP for the “construction and modernization of land ports of entry and equipment and fixtures for operations,” including screening technology that would target the real source of fentanyl entering the U.S. at ports of entry.
The following is a statement from Zachary Mueller, America’s Voice Political Director:
Our nation faces urgent challenges with opioid addiction, overdose deaths, and synthetic fentanyl that deserve serious sustained attention from our elected leaders. This issue is expansive. It is a healthcare issue, an international trade issue, a corporate accountability issue, a criminal syndicate issue but the one thing it is not is an immigration issue. But this is exactly where a cynical GOP puts its emphasis in order to place blame on immigrants and Biden, while opposing solutions to help save the lives of Americans.
Ron Johnson is just the latest example of a Republican party that, up and down the ticket and across the country, wants to demongouge on this nativist lie. It is intentional. It is callous. And it is an insult to all the families, communities and individuals suffering through the opioid crisis.
The GOP is silent on the violence inspired by the replacement theory. Exactly two Republican elected officials have denounced their party’s increasing embrace of the replacement conspiracy theory scam. The GOP opposes any change to gun laws to address the unchecked carnage against kids and innocent Americans due to guns. And when it comes to drugs and fentanyl, the GOP is letting the carnage and scourge of drugs continue unabated, while opposing concrete measures to address opioid deaths. Most Republicans voted against measures to help interdict drugs where they are actually entering the country and instead falsely claim it is immigrants bringing drugs into America.
This is the Republican party. Righteously lying to deflect attention from policies that could help in order to stir up divisions which do not help anyone but themselves.