According to findings from the United States Sentencing Commission, U.S. citizens made up 89% of all convicted fentanyl drug traffickers in 2022, 12 times greater than convictions of illegal immigrants for the same offense.
An NPR-Ipsos poll found that 39% of Americans and 60% of Republicans believe, “Most of the fentanyl entering the U.S. is smuggled in by unauthorized migrants crossing the border illegally.”
Immigration has been a major issue within political debates with GOP lawmakers using congressional oversight of the border to link the fentanyl crisis to migration.
At the latest Republican presidential debate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made the strongest pledge in support of sending U.S. special forces into Mexico to “take out fentanyl labs, to take out drug cartel operations.”
In 2023, 93% of fentanyl seizures occurred at legal crossing points or interior vehicle checkpoints, not on illegal migration routes, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The thought is U.S. citizens are subject to less scrutiny when crossing legally, therefore they are the best smugglers.
However, the Texas Department of Public Safety says Mexican cartels are wrangling easy targets to move drugs across the border.
The recruited mules generally don’t have criminal records, and immigration authorities say people who can legally cross the border are responsible for transporting most of the fentanyl smuggled into the country.
Fentanyl is a highly potent and dangerous synthetic opioid that has contributed to the opioid crisis in the U.S., leading to a surge in overdose-related deaths.
According to the Mortality Disparities in American Communities Study, fentanyl overdoses tragically cause tens of thousands of preventable deaths last year.