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U.S. Boosts Screening At Mexican Border To Find Fentanyl

The trucks packed with produce moved in a long, looping line, waiting to come into the U.S. at the Mariposa port of entry, one of the border’s busiest crossings for Mexican-grown produce. U.S. inspectors formerly referred only a handful of drivers for cargo screening with powerful scanning equipment to check for illegal drugs. On a recent morning they routed every truck through a new drive-through machine the size of a car wash. Known as a “multi-energy portal,” the equipment has allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to scan nearly six times as much cargo per day, reports the Washington Post. Construction crews were busy installing a second machine alongside it, racing to finish before peak grape season this spring, when trucks coming from Mexico are expected to roll through with 30 million pounds of fruits and vegetables per day. The harvest is an auspicious time for drug smugglers. The Nogales crossing is the front line of the government’s beleaguered effort to stem the flow of cheap fentanyl into the U.S. The synthetic opioid is fueling the most lethal drug epidemic in U.S. history, and last year, Nogales, Az., surpassed San Diego to become the southern border’s primary gateway for fentanyl trafficking.

U.S. officers have seized more than 21 million fentanyl tablets in the Nogales port of entry over the past five months, more than during the entire previous year. Officers are finding sacks of baby-blue fentanyl pills inside seat cushions, car batteries, even hollowed-out bicycle frames. “Fentanyl is so small that they’re hiding it in places that weren’t imaginable before,” said Michael Humphries, Customs and Border Protection’s Nogales port director. Drug overdoses killed more than 107,000 people in the U.S. in 2021, the highest total ever. Two-thirds of those deaths were caused by fentanyl. The highly addictive opioid can be prescribed by physicians to treat severe pain, but illegal tablets from Mexico are flooding across the border at powerful and potentially fatal dosage levels. Fentanyl trafficking is dominated by the two most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Those groups control U.S. border smuggling that lead to crossings into Arizona and California, which account for 90 percent of all the fentanyl seized by CBP during the 2022 fiscal year. President Biden’s critics blame his border policies for the fentanyl boom, attempting to link narcotics trafficking with the record numbers of migrants taken into custody. Federal data show the drug is overwhelmingly smuggled through U.S. ports of entry, which account for more than 96 percent of fentanyl seizures along the border since the start of the 2023 fiscal year on Oct. 1.


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