In a nationally televised program on Jan. 8, U.S. President Donald Trump stated his reasoning on why he believes the Mexican border is necessary, using his Oval Office address to outline his conditions for ending the partial government shutdown.
President Trump said that he will not allow the federal government to reopen until he gets $5.7 billion to construct a wall at the U.S.-Mexico Border.
He talked about how a very large number of illegal drugs is smuggled to the U.S. through the border, including meth, heroin fentanyl and cocaine.
In an attempt to win the argument about the steel barrier he is demanding Congress to fund, Trump described the U.S.-Mexico border as a place of death and danger, and he characterized undocumented immigrants as rapists, murderers and drug smugglers.
The U.S. president also said that every week 300 U.S. citizens are killed by heroin, and 90 percent of that drug supply floods across from Mexico.
He insisted that the barrier would stop drugs from entering the country from their southern neighbor and that the aforementioned numbers will drastically reduce.
Meanwhile, citizens across the nation are split on the issue. Last week a poll found that 57 percent of registered voters disapprove of the border wall, while 40 percent are on board with the proposal.
And amid the government shutdown, American citizens and experts alike have been considering for themselves whether or not the wall will really solve the problems faced at the U.S. border—especially with regards to drug trafficking.
Evidence suggests that the proposed physical wall fails to address the realities of today’s drug trade, namely the fact that drug supply is trafficked both through legal ports of entry and through the internet, on darknet markets.
Experts Disagree with Trump
Even though several statistics cited by Trump are correct, according to experts, he’s wrong about the power of the wall to do much about the flow of illegal drugs.
Elaine Carey, dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences at Purdue University, says that drugs flow in a different way.
They come through airports, ships and on trucks, in spite of the fact they all get across the border.
Building a wall isn’t going to do much if the demand isn’t dealt with, she commented to The Washington Post.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment [PDF], only a small portion of the drugs smuggled in the United States comes in the form of body carriers, and they typically smuggle amounts ranging from three to six pounds attached to their torso or in their backpacks.
Most of the heroin comes in the country by privately owned vehicles by way of authorized ports of entry, where heroin is mixed with legal goods.
Democrats in the House of Representatives have argued that the money Trump is demanding for the wall would have more practical use if it’s invested into technologies that could detect the drugs, such as drones and X-rays.
Another piece of evidence opposing the wall is the ongoing testimony at the New York City trial of infamous drug lord El Chapo, which revealed that the smuggling usually went through legal checkpoints, not open sections of the border.
The reasons why drug traffickers decide on legal ports of entry Is because the legal traffic allows them to hide in a much safer manner as opposed to going through a route patrolled by guards.
The Cautious Road of the Synthetic Opioid Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a drug that doesn’t require any type of cultivation because it’s manufactured in labs, thus making it cheaper and easier to produce.
The synthetic opioid is also much stronger than heroin, and the profits it brings can be astronomical.
While Trump is right about the fact that most heroin supply comes from the southern border into the U.S., fentanyl is the new hardest hitting drug.
The wall wouldn’t be able to help with this issue, due to the way by which fentanyl is smuggled in the country.
According to a report [PDF] from President Trump’s own commission on the opioid crisis, most fentanyl supply is made in China.
The DEA’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment states that despite some of it being smuggled in across the southern border, much of it is mailed or shipped directly from China.
Also, the type of fentanyl intercepted at the southern border is found to be less potent than the fentanyl shipped through parcel packages.
The drug can also be ordered through the dark web and mailed through the U.S. Postal Service.
Darknet markets and vendor networks allow access to all sorts of drugs, weapons, credit card information and other illegal products.
Seeing that most of the distribution of fentanyl happens through legal ports of entry and international shipments, not illegal border crossings, the wall that President Trump is planning to build is unlikely to have an effect on the online drug business.