Did Joe Biden Lose 85,000 Migrant Kids?

Did Joe Biden Lose 85,000 Migrant Kids?

Two outrages: ORR director doesn’t know, and most of the media doesn’t seem to care

Watch Video Updates from the U.S. – Mexico Border


The House Oversight Committee’s National Security Subcommittee held a hearing this week on the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Alien Children Program. Robin Dunn Marcos, director of the office, appeared, but if you watch that hearing you’ll learn a lot more from the questions than the answers — because there weren’t many answers on key issues, such as the fate of 85,000 children the office has apparently lost contact with. Someone needs to put a up a large “Help Wanted” sign in Washington, because the American people are desperately in need of accountability on migrant children — both in the government and in the media.

“Unaccompanied Alien Children”.

Until late 2002, unaccompanied alien children or “UACs” were not really a thing. That’s not to say that the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) — precursor to CBP and ICE in immigration enforcement and to USCIS in adjudicating immigration benefits — did not encounter, process, and in cases detain alien kids without parents or guardians. It did.

And it often received criticism for how it did so. In 1985, two organizations sued the INS on behalf of alien children being detained by the agency. The purpose of the suit, as NPR has explained, was to “challeng[e] procedures regarding the detention, treatment, and release of children”.

That case went through several levels of judicial review, including by the Supreme Court in March 1993 on the question of whether the then-controlling regulation limiting the release of those children without parents or guardians violated the constitution’s Due Process clause.

That regulation provided for the release of UACs only to their parents, close relatives, or legal guardians, “except in unusual and compelling circumstances”. If not released under this provision, an INS official was required to find “suitable placement … in a facility designated for the occupancy of juveniles.”

Justice Scalia, writing for six other justices, found that the regulation was not unconstitutional. He noted:

The parties to the present suit agree that the Service must assure itself that someone will care for those minors pending resolution of their deportation proceedings. That is easily done when the juvenile’s parents have also been detained and the family can be released together; it becomes complicated when the juvenile is arrested alone, i. e., unaccompanied by a parent, guardian, or other related adult.

The matter was remanded to U.S. district court, and in January 1997, the Clinton DOJ and the plaintiffs entered into a stipulated settlement agreement (the Flores settlement agreement, or FSA).

The FSA governed the conditions of detention and release of unaccompanied children in INS custody, but it never satisfied the advocates. When the INS was abolished and DHS created in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA), they had the chance to act.

A Democratic amendment to HSA defined the term “unaccompanied alien child” as:

a child who — (A) has no lawful immigration status in the United States; (B) has not attained 18 years of age; and (C) with respect to whom — (i) there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.

That amendment also gave responsibility for the care and placement of those UACs to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

There was little debate when this amendment was approved, so it’s unclear why anybody thought that ORR would do a better job with those kids than the former INS had, or as the future ICE — which has authority to detain aliens generally — would do.

In any event, the change was not that significant at first, because DHS didn’t encounter many UACs to transfer. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the number of UACs DHS referred to ORR in the early 2000s “averaged 6,700 annually”.

That quickly changed in 2008, however, when congressional Democrats pushed through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).

Section 235 of the TVPRA divided UACs into two groups: (1) children from the “contiguous” countries of Canada and Mexico; and (2) minor nationals of “non-contiguous” countries (everywhere else).

Under that provision, a UAC from a contiguous country can be returned home if the child has not been trafficked and does not have a credible fear of return.

UACs from non-contiguous countries, however, must be transferred to ORR within 72 hours and placed into formal removal proceedings (UACs can’t be placed into expedited removal), even if they have not been trafficked and have no fear of return. ORR is then directed to place most of those children with “sponsors” in the United States.

That created an opening for parents, other family members, guardians, and traffickers in the United States interested in bringing children living in those “non-contiguous” countries to do so, urged by smugglers with their own agendas.

That is my perspective, at least, but take a look at the statistics and decide for yourself: According to CRS, in FY 2008, the fiscal year before TVPRA took effect, CBP encountered fewer than 10,000 UACs at the Southwest border.

By FY 2009, when that bill was signed, that figure rose to around 20,000 UACs, 82 percent of them Mexican nationals, and just 17 percent from the non-contiguous “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The number of UACs entering illegally kept growing thereafter, with Border Patrol apprehending more than 68,500 of them in FY 2014. By that point, however, just 23 percent of UACs came from Mexico and 77 percent from the Northern Triangle.

Faced with a surge in “non-contiguous” UACs that year, President Obamadesperately wrote to Congress, asking it to provide DHS with “additional authority to exercise discretion in processing the return and removal of unaccompanied minor children from non-contiguous countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador” — that is, to fix section 235 of TVPRA. That did not happen.

The Hottest Button.

Immigration has become a “hot button” issue on Capitol Hill — right up there with gun control and abortion — although as my colleague George Fishmanrecently explained, members reached bipartisan accord on it as recently as 2005. And as a subset, the treatment of UACs has become the hottest button.

Obama knew that fixes were needed, but even he could not convince Congress to do anything to bring that about, and not even stunning Senate reports in 2016 and 2018 on ORR failures forced a change.

Instead of legislative action, various parties — including most notably Joe Biden — have decided to demagogue the issue for political advantage. Let me explain.

The Trump administration attempted to address the UAC issue through any number of administrative actions, including “a biometric and biographic information-sharing agreement between ORR and DHS … intended to ensure greater child safety and immigration enforcement”. That vetting took time, however, and by FY 2020, UACs were spending on average 102 days in ORR custody while that office found a suitable sponsor in the United States.

Trump had left himself vulnerable on the issue of alien children, however, due to a poorly implemented 2018 plan (“zero tolerance”) to prosecute alien adults who had brought children with them when they entered illegally in “family units” (FMUs) for “improper entry” (a misdemeanor federal offense).

When the adults in those FMUs were sent to U.S. Marshal’s Service custody for prosecution, the children were deemed “unaccompanied” and sent to ORR — a process derided as “family separation” by Trump’s legion of detractors. The plan was poorly implemented (and more poorly explained), prompting a firestorm in the press.

Trump had to quickly shut zero tolerance down, but by then the damage had been done. Anything he tried to do thereafter relating to migrant children — including a plea for additional funding to move UACs out of overcrowded CBP processing centers and into ORR shelters in the spring of 2019 — was twisted in the increasingly hostile press and played for outrage by Congress.

That 2019 crisis led to the “kids in cages” trope, in which the public was almost categorically led to believe that UACs were sitting in squalor in government detention because Trump wanted to abuse them, and not because Congress refused to provide funding.

Then-candidate Biden issued various position papers on his immigration plans, but he only highlighted — and the press only focused on — his promises to eliminate the cages and reunify separated families. Here’s how he stated it, at the top of his campaign’s immigration website:

It is a moral failing and a national shame when … children are locked away in overcrowded detention centers and the government seeks to keep them there indefinitely. When our government argues in court against giving those children toothbrushes and soap. When President Trump uses family separation as a weapon against desperate mothers, fathers, and children seeking safety and a better life.

When I say “the press only focused on”, consider that there was only one immigration question asked during the 2020 presidential debates between Biden and Trump, from Kristen Welker at NBC News:

Mr. President, your administration separated children from their parents at the border, at least 4000 kids, You’ve since reversed your zero tolerance policy, but the United States can’t locate the parents of more than 500 children. So how will these families ever be reunited?

Trump did himself no favors in response, fumbling his answer and deflecting by asking Biden “who built the cages?”

Biden Rides In. Biden then rode into office promising to reunite those families (and attempting to use Border Patrol and ICE funds to do so, although curiously separation reportedly continues under his administration), and to move UACs out of ORR custody as quickly as possible.

That all led to a brand-new UAC surge, which has eclipsed the one Obama faced in 2014. In March 2021 alone, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended more than 16,000 non-contiguous UACs — five times as many as in the prior December.

That forced Biden to open up “temporary” shelters known as “emergency intake sites”, or “EIS”. Advocates soon complained about the conditions in those EIS, and by April Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) was threatening to shut down the one in San Antonio, calling in the Texas Rangers (a component of the state’s Department of Public Safety), to investigate what was going on there.

By March 2022, it was revealed that ORR had lost 20,000 of the UACs it had released to sponsors under Biden, and complaints about EIS were amplified last September when the HHS Office of Inspector General issued a blistering report on the office’s failures in keeping track of children in its care and vetting potential sponsors.

Though honestly, “amplified” is likely the wrong word. Aside from me and a few congressional staffers, few if any in the media noticed what was going on, even as Biden began cutting corners in vetting potential UAC sponsors, including by revoking Trump’s biometric and biographic information-sharing agreement between ORR and DHS.

By April 17, according to HHS, “the average length of time an unaccompanied child remained in ORR’s care was 25 days”.

This only changed when the New York Times started running a series of exposés on released UACs who were being forced into grueling labor and hardship in February.

Oversight Hearing.Which brings me to this week’s hearing. Among the key takeaways were that only about 37 percent of released UACs end up with a parent, and that about two-thirds of them are working full-time jobs (often without work authorization). Respectfully, if the Biden administration believes that there is a worker shortage in the United States, migrant kids in sweatshops aren’t the solution.

Shockingly, however, Director Dunn Marcos could not (or would not) confirm in response to questioning by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) that her office had lost contact with “85,000 kids” it had released to sponsors. All she could say was that in 81 percent of post-release follow-up safety and welfare calls, ORR was able to make contact with the child. Meaning that in about one-fifth of UAC cases, ORR lost contact.

All procedural arguments are self-serving, but Chairman Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.) was spot-on when he went off script to complain:

It’s particularly aggravating to see these kids come across the border and have the press not cover what’s going on, when these kids may never see their parents again, and just a few years ago we saw the press screaming about broken families.

Compare whatever coverage you may see about Rep. Biggs’ questioning on 85,000 UACs to the following report from the Washington Post in May 2018, during the Trump administration:

During a Senate committee hearing late last month, Steven Wagner, an official with the Department of Health and Human Services, testified that the federal agency had lost track of 1,475 children who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on their own (that is, unaccompanied by adults) and subsequently were placed with adult sponsors in the United States. As the Associated Press reported, the number was based on a survey of more than 7,000 children:

From October to December 2017, HHS called 7,635 children the agency had placed with sponsors, and found 6,075 of the children were still living with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been deported and 52 were living with someone else. The rest were missing, said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary at HHS.

Let me do the math for you. The AP report referenced showed HHS reached 79.5 percent of UACs it had released during three months in 2017 but could not contact 1,475 of them.

Dunn Marcos asserted that her office had been able to reach 81 percent of UACs it released but couldn’t even confirm that it was unable to contact 85,000 others.

The difference between 79.5 percent and 81 percent is 1.5 percent — basically a rounding error.

The difference between 85,000 and 1,475, however, is 83,525 — more lost kids than are enrolled in the Austin (Texas) Independent School District — America’s 41st largest. If somehow someone had lost every student in Austin’s public schools, every outlet would cover it like CNN covered the first Gulf War. Biggs’ unanswered contention? Crickets.

Did I mention that the headline on the May 2018 Post article was “The U.S. lost track of 1,475 immigrant children last year. Here’s why people are outraged now”? In that vein, where’s the outrage now?

I’m not saying the press should have cut Donald Trump slack on migrant kids. “Politics ain’t beanbag”, and in many ways he did himself few favors. But if the media isn’t solely composed of partisan hacks playing gotcha on such children, they should be as enraged about 85,000 lost kids now as they were about a fraction of that number in 2018. They aren’t — and that’s the true outrage.

Reference: cis.org

https://cis.org/Arthur/Did-Joe-Biden-Lose-85000-Migrant-Kids

ALL DEMOCRAT’s on the committee are PULLING OUT of the FIELD HEARING about the BORDER CRISIS in Texas on Wednesday

BREAKING: House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep Mark Green tells us he has just learned all Democrats on the committee are pulling out from attending a field hearing about the border crisis in Texas on Wednesday. He says that’s despite several Dems confirming attendance, & inviting their own minority witness, who is confirmed on the federal panel.
US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz is also set to testify. Chairman Green says he was given no reason for the abrupt pullout. Chairman Green’s statement below. #FoxNews

Homeland Security committee Dems confirm that they will not be attending the border hearing

They say that they never agreed to attend in the first place so they are not “pulling out.”

It’s time America takes ACTION! SPEAK UP!

Call: Rep Mark Green’s office 202-224-3121 (Capitol switchboard)

Speak to the staff of ranking committee chair, this gets your message to him directly…. otherwise, our voices are diluted 🇺🇸

STATEMENT from Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D):

“After careful consideration, Committee Democrats have decided not to participate in the Republicans’ field hearing this week. Unfortunately, it has become clear that Republicans planned to politicize this event from the start, breaking with the Committee’s proud history of bipartisanship. Instead of a fact-finding mission to develop better border security and immigration policies, Republicans are traveling to the border to attack the Administration and try to score political points with their extreme rhetoric – despite having voted against the resources border personnel need. Committee Democrats are in regular contact with Department leadership and stakeholders on the ground and will be taking substantive site visits to the border – including as soon as this week.”

The Biden Border plan is to shift illegal immigration from mass numbers of illegal aliens rushing the border to paroling or releasing those same illegal aliens into the United States with employment authorization and access to welfare, preparing the illegals for eventual de facto or legislative amnesty. The legislative amnesty is off the table with the Republican House, but the de facto amnesty remains in play.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Imagine it! All this is allowed by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas.

The Biden Regime Administrative Amnesty hangs by a thread, though. The numbers of illegal aliens continue to increase, the parole or catch-and-release amnesty has been declared illegal by a Federal District Court judge in Florida, so the only way for the Biden Regime to survive the border crisis is to lie.

The Luge press’s is only too happy to run cover for the lies. Just a few days ago the Lying Press, Associated Press in this case, touted that the numbers of border crossers is down significantly, as if the announcements of the parole amnesty convinced millions of illegal aliens enroute through Central America or flying into Mexico from Africa, Asia, and South America to just return home and try and use the app to enter, rather than try their luck at the border. Actually, luck has nothing to do with it; coyotes who work for the cartels have guaranteed entry to the United States, no matter how many attempts it takes.

A sharp drop in illegal border crossings since December could blunt a Republican point of attack against President Joe Biden as the Democratic leader moves to reshape a broken asylum system that has dogged him and his predecessors.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows some support for changing the number of immigrants and asylum-seekers allowed into the country. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults say the level of immigration and asylum-seekers should be lowered, while about 2 in 10 say they should be higher, according to the poll. About a third want the numbers to remain the same.

The decrease in border crossings followed Biden’s announcement in early January that Mexico would take back Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans under a pandemic-era rule that denies migrants the right to seek asylum as part of an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, the U.S. agreed to admit up to 30,000 a month of those four nationalities on humanitarian parole if they apply online, enter at an airport and find a financial sponsor.

[Plunge In Border Crossings Could Blunt GOP Attack On Bidenby Elliot Spagat, AP, March 7, 2023]

Instead, the reality is that the Fiscal Year 2023 is heading to break the record of illegal immigration from the last two fiscal years, when over 5 million illegal aliens entered or attempted to enter the United States, with most being released into the United States.

Migrant encounters at the southern border have already surpassed the one million mark for Fiscal Year 2023, multiple Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sources tell Fox News, marking an unprecedented pace for encounters.

As of Friday, the total migrant encounters at the border were at 1,008,217 for the fiscal year, which began in October. Of those, 87.8% were single adults. Just 328,454 were expelled under Title 42 — the pandemic-era protocol that allows border agents to rapidly expel border crossers.

There were more than 1.7 million encounters overall in FY 2021 and over 2.3 million in FY 2022. The first months of FY 2023 have outpaced those of the prior fiscal year. This time last year, numbers for FY22 through March 1 were 839,819—well under the 1 million mark.

Meanwhile, there have been 354,522 known “gotaways”—illegal immigrants who have evaded Border Patrol agents but have been detected on another form of surveillance. In FY 2022, there were nearly 600,000 gotaways.

[Migrant Encounters At Southern Border Hit 1,000,000 Mark For FY 2023, Outpacing Prior Year: Sources, by Adam Shaw, Fox News, February 25, 2023]

One may argue that the last few days have educated the illegal aliens and the numbers are dropping. But sadly for the Biden Regime and the Lying Press, reality has struck, and badly. Illegal aliens for whom the CBP One app is not available or not working have decided they are coming in, by hook or by crook, but mostly by violence. In fact, they are reverting to the common tactic that appeared during the early Clinton Regime, rushing the Ports-of-Entry (POE), the facilities where pedestrians and motor vehicles enter the United States from Mexico. Such tactics began in the 90s, but occasionally happened more recently as well under the Obama Regime and the Trump Administration.

Biden admin pressured Dem El Paso mayor not to declare state of emergency over city’s migrant crisis

The White House pressured the Democratic mayor of El Paso, Texas, to not declare a state of emergency over the city’s migrant crisis due to fear it would make President Biden look bad, The Post has learned.

At least three of the El Paso City Council’s eight members have urged Mayor Oscar Leeser to issue an emergency declaration in response to the thousands of migrants who’ve filled the city’s shelters and are being housed in local hotels, sources familiar with the matter said.

But Leeser admitted during a private phone conversation last month that he’d been directed otherwise by the Biden administration, one of the officials told The Post.

“He told me the White House asked him not to,” Council member Claudia Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also said Leeser has repeatedly assured her that he’d declare a state of emergency “if things got worse” — without saying what that meant.

US Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), whose district covers rural areas and border towns near El Paso, also said he heard similar accounts from other city officials.

“It is a sleight of hand what the administration is doing — pressuring the local government to not issue a declaration of emergency, to say as if everything is going OK,” he said.

Gonzales also alleged that the White House has done “the same thing in other parts of my district,” which have also seen huge numbers of migrants seeking refuge.

Leeser declined to speak with The Post but said in a prepared statement, “I don’t bow to pressure from any side.”

At one point over 2,100 migrants were crossing the border at El Paso daily.

New York Post

“I make decisions based on current circumstances and in the best interest of the citizens of El Paso,” the statement said.

Leeser also praised the federal government for providing his city with “critical” assistance.

The White House pressured El Paso’s mayor to not declare a State of Emergency over the city’s migrant crisis.
New York Post
Congressman Tony Gonzales shares it was not the first time they’ve received pressure regarding migrants seeking refuge.
Congressman Tony Gonzalez

At a Sept. 27 City Council meeting, Mayor Leeser also addressed the issue, saying Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) had urged him not to declare a State of Emergency, adding: “The White House has asked, at this point, for us not to do that and they’ll continue to work with us and continue to give us … money through [the] Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

Figures posted on El Paso’s official website show the city has received only $2 million in federal reimbursements toward the $8 million it has spent dealing with the migrant crisis.

The total cost could end up being much more, with ElPasomatters.org reporting in September the city was spending as much as $300,000 a day to shelter, feed and transport asylum-seeking immigrants.

In May, The Post first reported how officials in El Paso were considering declaring a state of emergency ahead of the expected ending of pandemic-related expulsions of border-crossers under Title 42 of the federal Public Health Services Act.

The move would have made the city and county eligible for state and federal funding to open additional shelters for housing migrants.

But the following day, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said that “the mayor and I backed off,” telling The Post that “we found out that there’s very little difference between the funding we’re getting now and the funding that we would get if it went up to the governor and the governor sent it to President Biden.”

At the time, about 700 migrants a day were arriving in El Paso.

But that number topped 2,100 a day last week before dropping down to around 1,600 a day, according to the latest information posted Monday on the city’s website.

Between April and mid-September more than 62,000 migrants had crossed the border at El Paso alone.

El Paso has relocated more than 10,000 migrants by bus to New York City since August, with Lesser revealing at a public meeting last month that he got a green light to do so from Mayor Eric Adams.

Front cover of the New York Post for Oct. 18, 2022

The front cover of the New York Post for Oct. 18, 2022.

Adams has denied that assertion and publicly called on Leeser to end the program earlier this month, saying “New York cannot accommodate the number of buses that we have coming here to our city.”

The Oct. 7 appeal came the same day Hizzoner declared a state of emergency in the Big Apple over its migrant crisis.

But the buses have continued rolling to the city from El Paso, most recently on Sunday.

Leeser has said that most of the migrants flooding El Paso come from Venezuela.

In recent days, migrants have been able to simply walk across the dried-up Rio Grande, surrender to US Customs and Border Protection officials and get released after saying they intend to seek political asylum.

Last week, the US and Mexican governments announced a deal under which Venezuelans who cross into the US would be sent back to Mexico.

But border sources told The Post that the agreement was only being enforced in a small number of cases.

The White House didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Biden’s DHS Confirms Plans to Siphon Healthcare Services Away from Veterans to Illegal Aliens at Border

Biden’s DHS Confirms Plans to Siphon Healthcare Services Away from Veterans to Illegal Aliens at Border

This is lower than low. Just look at the smug look on that scumbag’s face. He needs to locked up NOW!!

CBP/Mani Albrecht/Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
CBP/Mani Albrecht/Kevin Dietsch/Getty Im

President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has seemingly confirmed plans to siphon healthcare services away from American veterans treated at Veterans Affairs (VA) to illegal aliens arriving at the United States-Mexico border.

During a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed to Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) that the Biden administration is in talks with VA officials to potentially transfer doctors and nurses to the southern border to treat illegal aliens arriving every day in record-breaking numbers.

“Is the department planning to reallocate resources, doctors and nurses, from our VA system intended to care for our veterans to illegal immigrants at our southern border?” Hinson asked.

Mayorkas responded, stating that “the resources that the medical personnel from the Veterans Administration would allocate to this effort is under the judgment of the secretary of Veterans Affairs, who prioritizes the interests of veterans above all others for very noble and correct.”

When Hinson asked if Mayorkas had any conversations about the plan, he responded, “I have not personally, but of course, our teams, our personnel have. and I’d be very pleased to follow up with you.”

The remarks come as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) had sought clarification on reports that the Biden administration was looking to siphon doctors and nurses away from the VA toward illegal aliens at the border.

“In the words of one [Customs and Border Protection] official, ‘We’re going to take medical services away from people that really deserve that, who went to combat … to give free medical attention to illegal migrants,’” Hawley wrote in a letter to Mayorkas.

Already, Americans are forced to subsidize medical care for illegal aliens to the tune of $18.5 billion annually. Last year alone, Americans footed the bill for more than $316 million in medical care for border crossers and illegal aliens who were detained in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News.

Email him at jbinder@breitbart.com. Follow him on Twitter here.

States look for solutions as U.S. fentanyl deaths keep rising

NATIONAL

States look for solutions as U.S. fentanyl deaths keep rising

by: GEOFF MULVIHILL, Associated Press

Posted: Apr 5, 2022 / 12:34 AM CDT

Updated: Apr 5, 2022 / 12:50 AM CDT

Source

https://www.borderreport.com/news/national/states-look-for-solutions-as-u-s-fentanyl-deaths-keep-rising/

As the addiction and overdose crisis that has gripped the U.S. for two decades turns even deadlier, state governments are scrambling for ways to stem the destruction wrought by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

In statehouses across the country, lawmakers have been considering and adopting laws on two fronts: reducing the risk to users and increasing the penalties for dealing fentanyl or mixing it with other drugs. Meanwhile, Republican state attorneys general are calling for more federal action, while some GOP governors are deploying National Guard units with a mission that includes stopping the flow of fentanyl from Mexico.

“It’s a fine line to help people and try to get people clean, and at the same time incarcerate and get the drug dealers off the streets,” said Nathan Manning, a Republican state senator in Ohio who is sponsoring legislation to make it clear that materials used to test drugs for fentanyl are legal.

The urgency is heightened because of the deepening impact of the drugs. Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the nation had hit a grim milestone. For the first time, more than 100,000 Americans had diedof drug overdoses over a 12-month period. About two-thirds of the deaths were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, which can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, heroin or prescription opioids. Texas lawmakers failed to legalize fentanyl testing strips last year, but there’s still a push for access

The recent case of five West Point cadets who overdosed on fentanyl-laced cocaine during spring break in Florida put the dangers and pervasiveness of the fentanyl crisis back in the spotlight.

The chemical precursors to the drugs are being shipped largely from China to Mexico, where much of the illicit fentanyl supply is produced in labs before being smuggled into the U.S.

While users sometimes seek out fentanyl specifically, it and other synthetics with similar properties are often mixed with other drugs or formed into counterfeit pills so users often don’t know they’re taking it.

Advocates say test strips can help prevent accidental overdoses of drugs laced with fentanyl. The strips are given out at needle exchanges and sometimes at concerts or other events where drugs are expected to be sold or used.

Thomas Stuber, chief legislative officer at The LCADA Way, a drug treatment organization in Ohio that serves Lorain County and nearby areas, has been pushing for the test strip legislation. It also would ease access to naloxone, a drug that can be used to revive people when they’re having opioid overdoses.

“This is a harm-reduction approach that has received a lot of acceptance,” he said. “We cannot treat somebody if they’re dead.”

Since last year, at least a half-dozen states have enacted similar laws and at least a dozen others have considered them, according to research by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In West Virginia, the state hardest hit by opioids per capita, lawmakers passed a bill this month to legalize the testing strips. It now heads to the governor.

The measure was sponsored by Republican lawmakers. But state Delegate Mike Pushkin, a Democrat whose district includes central Charleston, has also been pushing for more access to fentanyl strips. He said the situation got worse last year when a state law tightened regulations on needle exchanges, causing some of them to close.

Pushkin, who also is in long-term addiction recovery, is pleased with the passage of the testing strip bill but upset with another measure passed this month that would increase the penalties for trafficking fentanyl. That bill also would create a new crime of adding fentanyl to another drug.

“Their initial reaction is, ‘We have to do something,’” he said. “It’s not just about doing something, it’s about doing the right thing that actually has results.”

But for many lawmakers, making sure that tough criminal penalties apply to fentanyl is a priority.

California Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen, a Republican, introduced a measure that would make penalties for dealing fentanyl just as harsh as those for selling cocaine or heroin. The Republican represents Orange County, where there were more than 600 reported fentanyl-related deaths last year.

“This is sending messages to those who aren’t afraid of selling these drugs that there’s a longer, bigger penalty than you might think,” said Nguyen, whose bill failed to advance from her chamber’s public safety committee in a 5-2 vote last week. She said after the bill failed that she was considering trying again. 

She said committee members stressed compassion for drug users, something she said she agrees with.

“The less available these pills are out there, the better it is,” Nguyen said. “And that is going after the drug dealer.”DEA: We save lives in Middle America by stopping fentanyl at the border

The same day her measure failed to advance, a Democratic lawmaker in California announced a different bill to increase fentanyl-dealing penalties.

The National Conference of State Legislatures found 12 states with fentanyl-specific drug trafficking or possession laws as of last year. Similar measures have been introduced or considered since the start of 2021 in at least 19 states, the Associated Press found in an analysis of bills compiled by LegiScan. That does not include measures to add more synthetic opioids to controlled substance lists to mirror federal law; those have been adopted in many states, with bipartisan support.

Fentanyl has been in the spotlight in Colorado since February, when five people were found dead in a suburban Denver apartment from overdoses of fentanyl mixed with cocaine.

Under state law, possession with intent to distribute less than 14 grams of fentanyl is an offense normally punishable by two to four years in prison. But fentanyl is so potent that 14 grams can represent up to 700 lethal doses, under a calculation used by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

“It’s making it impossible to hold the dealer accountable for the deadliness of the drugs they’re peddling,” Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Democrat, said in an interview.In El Paso, fentanyl, an OD, and unknown reasons for Downtown jail deaths

He and a bipartisan group of lawmakers last week unveiled a bill also backed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis that would increase penalties for dealers with smaller amounts of fentanyl and in cases where the drug leads to a death. The legislation also would increase the accessibility of naloxone and test strips while steering people who possess fentanyl into education and treatment programs.

Maritza Perez, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that advocates for harm-reduction measures, is skeptical of the legislation that would increase criminal penalties.

“We have the largest incarceration rate in the entire world and we’re also setting records in terms of overdose deaths,” she said.

Democratic governors are focusing primarily on harm reduction methods. Among them is Illinois Gov. Jay Pritzker, who released a broad overdose action plan last month.

Several Republican governors and attorneys general have responded to the rising death toll with administrative enforcement efforts and by pushing for more federal intervention.

Last year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called for states to help secure the border with Mexico. Along with trying to keep people from entering the U.S., stopping the flow of fentanyl was cited as a reason. Several other Republican governors have sent contingents of state troopers or National Guard units. 

The Texas Military Department said that from March 2021 through earlier this month, its troops near the border confiscated more than 1,200 pounds (540 kilograms) of fentanyl. By comparison, federal authorities reported confiscating about 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms) in 2021 — still a fraction of what entered the country.Gov. Greg Abbott brags about his border initiative. The evidence doesn’t back him up.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice filed about 2,700 cases involving crimes related to the distribution of fentanyl and similar synthetic drugs, up nearly tenfold from 2017. Even so, Republican state officials are critical of federal efforts to stop fentanyl from entering the country.

In January, 16 GOP state attorneys general sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on him to exert more pressure on China and Mexico to stop the flow of fentanyl. Those are steps that Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of National Drug Control Policy, said are already being taken.

In March, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for more enforcement on fentanyl trafficking and harsher penalties. 

“Fentanyl is killing Americans of all walks of life in unprecedented numbers,” Morrisey said in a statement emailed to the AP, “and the federal government must respond with full force, across the board, using every tool available to stem the tide of death.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

TOP STORIES

Medicare enrollees to get free COVID-19 tests at …

Haitians look forward to filing asylum claims when …

Governor calls emergency special election for South …

Shelter for Ukrainian migrants opens in Tijuana

Top Stories 

MORE STORIES

States look for solutions as U.S. fentanyl deaths …

Medicare enrollees to get free COVID-19 tests at …

Governor calls emergency special election for South …

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick releases top 2023 legislative …

California church on a mission to help Ukrainian …

Divided reactions to the end of Title 42 by migrant …

What’s next for Texas, as neighboring New Mexico …

Hundreds line up to buy legal cannabis across Texas …

More Stories 

BorderReport Video

nullPrevious

KXAN News Today

6 hours ago

TDEM expanding statewide outreach

6 hours ago

CapMetro riders can request a drop off between stops …

6 hours ago

Austin Police joins 30 by 30 Initiative to increase …

6 hours ago

City officials concerned Austin airport is understaffed, …

6 hours ago

APD launches new unit to review officer use of force …

6 hours ago

3 more protesters hurt by less-lethal rounds in May …

6 hours ago

1 adult dies, 3 children taken to hospital after …

6 hours ago

Monday overnight First Warning Forecast

7 hours ago

Texas police investigating multiple middle schoolers …

8 hours ago

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick releases top legislative priorities …

10 hours ago

Texas lawmakers weigh border security spending as …

10 hours ago

Next

More Videos 

EL PASO CORRESPONDENT LATEST STORIES

End of Title 42 will ‘open floodgates to illegal …

4 hours ago

Haitians look forward to filing asylum claims when …

10 hours ago

Parrots in a box: CBP stops 2nd bird-smuggling attempt …

16 hours ago

Texans flock to cannabis dispensaries across New …

3 days ago

DHS says Title 42 ending on May 23 but removals of …

4 days ago

At least 10,000 in Juarez waiting for Title 42 rollback, …

4 days ago

View All Julian Resendiz 

SOUTH TEXAS CORRESPONDENT LATEST STORIES

Governor calls emergency special election for South …

11 hours ago

Divided reactions to the end of Title 42 by migrant …

3 days ago

New congressional caucus formed to study border security …

4 hours ago

South Texas congressman Filemon Vela has stepped …

4 days ago

Lights Out campaign urges Texans to dim night lights …

4 days ago

Environmental groups, feds reach deal blocking military …

6 days ago

View All Sandra Sanchez 

CALIFORNIA CORRESPONDENT LATEST STORIES

Shelter for Ukrainian migrants opens in Tijuana

12 hours ago

Court orders Pakistani asylum-seeker to continue …

2 weeks ago

Amazon launches program to help refugees

2 weeks ago

State Department issues travel warning for Tijuana …

2 weeks ago

Fence to prevent migrants from squatting at border …

2 weeks ago

Pakistani asylum-seeker continues journey in U.S. …

2 weeks ago

View All Salvador Rivera