Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the launch of a program to combat the surge in illicit fentanyl smuggling at the southern border.
Mayorkas announced “Operation Blue Lotus” Tuesday during a visit to the Port of Nogales, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made large fentanyl seizures, to deploy Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents to the ports to help collect intelligence on drug cartels to create criminal cases against them. CBP illicit fentanyl seizures at the southern border for fiscal year 2023 are on pace to surpass fiscal year 2022’s seizure of roughly 14,000 pounds of the synthetic narcotic.
Between October 2022 and February 2023, CBP recorded the seizure of roughly 6,500 pounds of fentanyl in the Tucson area of operation, which includes the port in Nogales, according to agency data.
“This Administration has a multi-pronged strategy to combat the scourge of fentanyl that is devastating communities across the United States, and the Department of Homeland Security works every day to prevent it from coming across our border. In the past two years, DHS has seized more fentanyl than the previous five years combined. But we must do more,” Mayorkas said in a statement Tuesday.
“Operation Blue Lotus is a DHS-led, coordinated surge effort to curtail the flow of illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States from Mexico and bring to justice the dangerous criminal organizations profiting from the illegal production, distribution, and sale of this dangerous substance,” Mayorkas added.
Two days, two huge loads, 2.5 million fentanyl pills.
On Friday, CBP officers found approximately 829,000 fentanyl pills in the quarter panels of a car.
On Saturday, officers took down approximately 1,663,040 fentanyl pills hidden throughout a pickup truck. pic.twitter.com/EAjFTxVqxJ
— Port Director Michael W. Humphries (@CBPPortDirNOG) March 21, 2023
Fentanyl is responsible for a large share of the more than 100,000 overdose deaths that occurred in 2021 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the launch of the new program, DHS has recorded roughly 900 pounds of fentanyl seizures, according to DHS.
Roughly two milligrams of fentanyl is considered lethal, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Illicit fentanyl is largely made in clandestine labs in Mexico with chemicals made in China.
I am so impressed with the cutting-edge law enforcement work happening in Tucson. Amazing collaboration between DHS and our federal partners to fight cartels and take down smuggling operations.
— Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (@SecMayorkas) March 21, 2023
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