The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday night it's stepping up efforts to combat fentanyl trafficking across the Southern border with the launch of a major new, multi-agency operation.
Driving the news: "Operation Blue Lotus" has already "stopped more than 900 pounds of fentanyl from coming into the United States in its first week," per a DHS statement.
- The "coordinated surge operation" that launched on March 13 includes "an increase in targeted inspections" by Customs and Border Patrol officers and Homeland Security Investigations agents, canine units and advanced technology at locations along the border, per the DHS.
Why it matters: Fentanyl is much more potent than prescription opioids and it's been linked to an increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in recent years, per the National Institutes of Health.
- A record 107,622 people died from overdosing in the U.S. in 2021 and the vast majority was caused by fentanyl, according to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- "President Biden's Republican critics blame his border policies for the crisis, saying U.S. authorities are too busy to stop illegal drugs from entering the United States because they're contending with record numbers of migrants," the Washington Post notes.
Details: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the new operation following a meeting with CBP officials at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona, after touring the border with state Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) on Tuesday.
- Mayorkas said in a statement it's part of the Biden administration's "multi-pronged strategy to combat the scourge of fentanyl that is devastating communities across the United States" and noted that the DHS has in the past two years "seized more fentanyl than the previous five years combined."
- He said during a news conference that "Operation Blue Lotus" marked a "monumental shift" and an example of how the Biden administration is "taking it to the cartels, to the traffickers and we will not stop."
Of note: "Operation Blue Lotus" has also prevented more than 700 pounds of methamphetamines and over 100 pounds of cocaine from entering the U.S., according to the DHS.