House Republicans have released a plan on how to address the record number of U.S. citizens dying of fentanyl, calling the epidemic a “public health catastrophe.”
Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), published a detailed memo with strategies ranging from more stringent border enforcement to legislative solutions to stem the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.
“House Republicans need to fight the drug epidemic at its source — the U.S. Mexico border — and increase penalties for the criminals flooding our communities with deadly drugs,” Banks wrote in the 5-page memo.
The RSC tied much of the blame for the escalation in fentanyl trafficking to the “open border policies” of the Biden administration, stating that the sharp increase in fentanyl deaths has happened since President Biden took office.
“Thanks to President Biden’s refusal to enforce immigration law, drug smugglers now have free reign at our southern border,” the report states. “In 2021, fentanyl trafficking across our border increased by 132 percent.”
The committee also advises tougher actions against China, which is the main supplier of fentanyl to the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
“China is the number one producer of illicit fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl,” Banks stated. “President Donald Trump recognized this threat and successfully pressured China to schedule fentanyl-related substances as a class. However, we now know that a significant portion of China’s fentanyl manufacturing subsequently moved to Mexico where cartels set up their own operations to produce fentanyl using precursor chemicals from China.”
He added, “Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s weakness has allowed this deadly relationship between the cartels and Chinese acts to flourish.”
The report also places some blame for the crisis with social media companies, which the RSC says are under-incentivized to police their platforms for behavior like drug traffickers who use social media sites to find new clients.
RSC members propose a suite of legislative actions to address the crisis.
One bill would allow individuals and state attorneys general to sue foreign governments for death or injury caused by illegal fentanyl trafficking into the U.S. Other proposed pieces of legislation would mandate a lifetime prison sentence for anyone convicted of trafficking fentanyl, or the death penalty for a person convicted of dealing fentanyl which results in death.
Republicans also recommend plans that permanently place the drug as Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, expand Title 42 immigration restrictions for drug smuggling, and enhance criminal penalties for trafficking narcotics designed to look like candy.