U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on Jan. 31 that its officers had seized 254 pounds of fentanyl in Nogales/Mariposa port of entry in Arizona.
The amount discovered in what was the largest fentanyl seizure ever recorded was enough to kill 115 million people, according to investigators in the case.
Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Much of the fentanyl making its way into the United States is produced in China.
CBP said a canine officer alerted other officers to the presence of the fentanyl inside a hidden floor compartment of an 18-wheeler carrying cucumbers.
“It has been sent for a chemical analysis so we won’t know the purity until a much later date,” said Michael Humphries, the port director for Nogales.
In addition to the fentanyl, CBP said its officers also seized 395 pounds of methamphetamine hidden inside the compartment in the 18-wheeler.
Combined the two drug busts have an estimated street value of $4.6 million, CBP said.
CBP said that an average of 1,500 trucks cross each day through the Mariposa commercial crossing during this time, which is the peak winter produce season.
“The war on drugs is an ongoing battle that we are losing to foreign smugglers attempting to distribute harmful synthetic opioids far and wide,” former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio noted in a Jan. 9 op-ed for The Washington Times.
“Around 75 percent of approximately 42,000 opioid-related deaths in 2016 were caused by illicit fentanyl and heroin. You may be wondering where this ‘illicit fentanyl” is coming from? It is pouring into our country through our open borders and lax mailing system,” Arpaio wrote.
“Chinese online fentanyl vendors send hundreds of packages to at least 300 sources in the United States via the U.S. Postal Service. China also commonly sends components of fentanyl to Mexico, where traffickers fashion large quantities into powder to then smuggle across U.S. borders for distribution. As a border state, Arizona is in an extremely vulnerable position. The smugglers are equipped to produce the drugs in such massive quantities that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been unable to properly prepare and combat the volume.”
President Donald Trump, Arpaio wrote “realizes that the climbing death toll is due to illicit opioids passing through failed border security measures and unprepared law enforcement. That is why he has ordered federal agencies to hire more border patrol agents and knows local law enforcement needs more support – this is how to reverse the epidemic, not through unnecessary regulations on the prescription of opioids to pain sufferers. We must send a message to our foreign adversaries that we will not stand for this destruction of American life.”
Arpaio urged Congress “to bolster the president’s goal to end the opioid epidemic by passing more bipartisan laws like the STOP Act, requiring the U.S. Postal Service to screen packages for deadly fentanyl from overseas, and to prosecute the criminals by holding Chinese smugglers and Mexican drug cartels accountable for their crimes.”
China “must re-examine its shipping policies if it wants to continue the trade relationship it has with the United States. We must make examples of Mexican drug cartels that have been caught with fentanyl on American soil and bring them to justice for the damage they cause,” Arpaio wrote.