Commonwealthfund.org reports that approximately 79,117 Americans died from drug overdoses during the first nine months of 2022, and in 2021, over 106,000 people died from overdoses. The synthetic opioid fentanyl is a significant factor contributing to the crisis, affecting people of every economic group, race, and gender.
Despite the opioid epidemic devastating communities, Republicans have criticized President Joe Biden’s administration for exacerbating the crisis by not securing the border. The president has now implemented measures to address the issue.
In 2021, President Biden declared a national emergency related to the illegal drug trafficking trade, citing it as a national security risk. He extended this declaration in December 2022.
@POTUS authorizes @SECDEF and Homeland Security SEC "to order to active duty such units and individual members of the Ready Reserve to ensure" DoD can "properly sustain its support" of Homeland Security "concerning international drug trafficking along the Southwest Border." pic.twitter.com/FZlBwfYWSO— Howard Altman (@haltman) April 27, 2023
Recently, on April 27, the president informed Congress that he would be utilizing the National Emergencies Act to deploy the Armed Forces to the Southwest border to assist in dealing with the ongoing trafficking crisis. This new directive grants more power to the secretaries of Homeland Security and the Defense Department to address the national emergency.
Under the president’s order, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin now have the authority to direct “active duty units and individual members of the Ready Reserve” to the border.
According to NBC News, in March, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador denied that Mexico had a fentanyl problem, stating that none of the drugs were being produced in Mexico and that there was no consumption of fentanyl in his country. He instead attributed the drug crisis in America to “social decay.” However, shortly after, he struck a deal with the Biden administration to jointly combat drug trafficking, with Mexico cracking down on drug trafficking within its borders and the US doing the same regarding weapons on its side of the border.
After taking office, President Biden reversed many of the immigration policies implemented by former President Trump, which has led to an influx of undocumented migrants crossing the border. Republicans have criticized the president for exacerbating the opioid epidemic, which has been a problem in the country for years.
Previously, the president authorized the deployment of 4,000 military personnel and National Guardsmen to assist Customs and Border Protection agents in apprehending individuals who were crossing the border illegally and maintaining equipment. It remains unclear if there will be any additional troops sent to the border following the president’s recent action, as the administration has not made any announcements.