Biden White House Outlines Push to Crack Down on Flow of Fentanyl Into U.S. Amid Tensions With Mexico

On Tuesday, the White House laid out its strategy to counteract the enormous, deadly flow of fentanyl into the United States, including more significant cooperation with the private sector and pressure to close loopholes, as tensions with Mexico have been increasing over the issue. 

“At a time when the global illicit fentanyl supply chain has changed how illicit substances are produced and trafficked, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing a strengthened whole-of-government approach to save lives by disrupting the trafficking of illicit fentanyl and its precursors into American communities,” said the White House in a statement. 

Deaths from fentanyl have risen dramatically in recent years, with over 70,000 deaths in 2021 attributed to overdoses from the drug. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and can be fatal, even in minuscule amounts.

The drug is made primarily in Mexico by drug cartels, using precursors from China and then shipped across the Mexico-U.S. land border. 

Tuesday, the White House outlined additional measures to cut off the supply chains that brought the opioid into the United States. Specifically, the administration said it is leading a “coordinated global effort with international partners” to disrupt the trade of drugs. 

The Biden administration noted it lobbied the U.N. to control an additional three precursors while building a “global coalition” to create solutions, “drive national actions and create synergies and leverage among like-minded countries who agree that countering illicit synthetic drugs must be a global policy priority.” Recently, President Joe Biden highlighted the coalition during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The president said Canada and the U.S. are announcing “a commitment to build a new global coalition of like-minded countries led by Canada and the United States to tackle this crisis.”

The White House emphasized that it is increasing information sharing and coordination among government law enforcement agencies — including increasing seizures of bulk cash at the border, targeting the shipments, origins, and destinations of equipment and precursors, and tracking pill presses used to manufacture fake pills. The strategy of the White House involves disrupting traffickers’ access to the financial markets in the United States and combating money laundering. 

In addition, the administration maintains it is “accelerating” the work of the private sector globally to combat house traffickers who will utilize commercial enterprises to access raw materials and resources and use technology to conduct business.

“To disrupt these criminals’ access to capital and materials, the Biden-Harris Administration is launching a whole-of-government effort, in partnership with the private sector, to strengthen cooperation with international and domestic express consignment carriers to interdict more illicit substances and production materials; educate companies on safeguarding against the sale and distribution of dual-use chemicals and equipment that could be used to produce illicit fentanyl; and intensify global engagement with private chemical industries,” said the statement. 

Finally, the statement called on Congress to close legal loopholes, including scheduling illicit fentanyl-related substances permanently into Schedule I, drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. 

The White House continues to stress its ongoing arrest operations, crackdowns, and an increase in seizures at entry ports on the southern border. 

The fact sheet comes as the GOP has pointed to the ongoing border crisis as the source of the increased flows of fentanyl. Dems and the administration have noted that most seizures are made at the ports of entry, not between the ports.

Calls for increased action from GOP lawmakers

In the meantime, calls for increased action from GOP lawmakers — who have called on cartels to be designated terrorist organizations and for military action against the Mexico drug labs — have sparked fiery reactions from the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Lopez Obrador threatened to launch an “information campaign” against Republicans calling for such actions, falsely claiming fentanyl isn’t produced in Mexico. He also struck out at the Biden administration for faulting his country’s human rights record. 

Recently, the Mexican president pleaded with China to do more to halt the shipments from Beijing while swiping at “rude threats” from the United States. “Unjustly, they are blaming us for problems that in large have to do with their loss of values, their welfare crisis,” Lopez Obrador fumed to Chinese President Xi Jinping. “These positions are in themselves a lack of respect and a threat to our sovereignty, and moreover, they are based on an absurd, manipulative, propagandistic, and demagogic attitude.”