The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed concern over the persistent menace posed by drugs originating from Mexico, such as fentanyl. The department believes these drugs might be responsible for more American fatalities than any other known threat.
The DHS’s 2024 Homeland Threat Assessment reveals, “The persistent challenge of terrorism aside, we anticipate that illicit drugs from Mexico entering the U.S. will result in the highest number of American fatalities.” The report further indicates that there’s been an uptick in the involvement of U.S. traffickers in the formulation and production of fentanyl, leading to even more dangerous versions of the drug.
In the preceding year, over 100,000 individuals succumbed to overdoses, with around 75% linked to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. This drug, lethal even in minor quantities, is commonly disguised as other pills, putting users at risk since they remain unaware of what they’re consuming.
The department has recorded a rise in fentanyl seizures at border checkpoints in 2023. While confiscations of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine have stabilized or decreased, these drugs are being increasingly laced with fentanyl. Traffickers within the U.S. are now exerting more control over the makeup of these drugs, leading to heightened risk.
The report states, “More and more, we’re seeing fentanyl in imitation prescription drugs like Adderall and Xanax. This mix increases overdose risks, especially for unsuspecting consumers.” Additionally, traffickers are now combining fentanyl with animal sedatives, which poses challenges to traditional overdose treatments.
However, Mexican drug cartels, notably the Sinaloa and New Generation Jalisco Cartels, remain the chief culprits in the smuggling of drugs like fentanyl.
The current administration is actively implementing a comprehensive approach to address the issue of fentanyl overdoses and believes their efforts are yielding results. This strategy encompasses greater investments in recovery and treatment and collaboration with international partners to combat smuggling. The administration underscores its recent achievements, including significant fentanyl seizures and arrests related to the drug.
Some critics link the fentanyl situation to the broader border issue and claim that the administration’s policies exacerbate the problem. The administration, in response, urges legislative action to amend what it sees as a flawed system and to allocate more resources.
In its assessment, the DHS also points to an increase in the number of individuals on the terror watch list being intercepted at the border. The influx of migrants poses a potential security risk, with concerns about potential infiltration by criminals and terrorists.
Additionally, the report predicts a sustained threat from domestic and foreign actors, targeting vital infrastructure through means such as cyberattacks. The upcoming 2024 elections are seen as a potential flashpoint for disturbances and foreign meddling.
The report also warns of challenges posed by China through unfair economic tactics, espionage, and market manipulation. Newer threats, such as advanced artificial intelligence being employed for misinformation campaigns and sophisticated cyberattacks, are also flagged.
The Homeland Threat Assessment is set to replace the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) as the primary tool for public updates, with NTAS reserved for specific, imminent threats.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas commented on the report, emphasizing the importance of keeping the public informed. He said, “Informing the public about potential threats is crucial in securing our nation against evolving challenges. The annual Homeland Threat Assessment offers insights into the most significant challenges we face, aiding our partners in making informed decisions that consider these security issues.”