The Fentanyl Crisis: A Practical Solution Republicans Could Propose If We Retake The House

Written by Wes Walker on October 25, 2022

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Even if we take the House and Senate, Joe seems unwilling to budge on the border. But that doesn’t mean we are without leverage to solve the fentanyl crisis on our border.

As Trump’s interaction with Mexico showed us, it’s all about finding the right negotiating tools. International diplomacy has always been about that complicated dance to find reasons for people whose interests are at odds with your own to take an interest in helping you meet your needs.

Trump motivated Mexico to help secure our shared border by giving him a choice between helping us stem the flow of foreigners and US slapping an import tax on goods coming from Mexico. They chose the path of cooperation.

Not all points of leverage are created equal, however. China, for example, has been cobbling a coalition of nations as a counterweight to US international sanctions. For all the gloating Joe did over his destruction of the Russian economy, the value of the ruble — which took a serious hit in March — has bounced back to pre-pandemic valuation. So any solution will take something more nuanced than ‘slap some sanctions on them’.

Let’s start with what we know about of fentanyl problem. We know the severity of the problem, where it’s coming from, and where cartels are sourcing the chemicals they use to manufacture it. We also know that, despite some success in tamping this problem down in the Trump years, the problem has come roaring back and is growing at a terrifying rate.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths.1 Even in small doses, it can be deadly. Over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. — CDC

One hundred and fifty a day.

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency ended fiscal 2022 having prevented more than 14,700 pounds of the synthetic opioid from slipping into the United States. That’s a dramatic increase from fiscal 2017, when authorities seized 2,000 pounds.
Fentanyl is a man-made drug that is so strong that three grains of the powder can induce a coma. U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 45 years old were more likely to die from consuming fentanyl than they were to die as the result of a car crash, the coronavirus, a heart attack, suicide, or a terrorist attack in 2021, the U.S. government declared. Fentanyl overdoses were a driving force behind the record-high 100,000 overdose deaths last year.

Fatalities have been skyrocketing and groups like Families against Fentanyl have launched petitions to have fentanyl classified as a weapon of mass destruction. That may work, but there is another solution we might consider. But first, let’s answer some questions:

Where’s the fentanyl coming from?

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, China has been the primary source of “fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the United States.”
…The Sinaloa and the New Generation Jalisco cartels are likely the primary groups responsible for bringing fentanyl into the U.S. from Mexico, according to the DEA. The cartels controlled areas where fentanyl production happened.
Drug smuggling happens across the U.S.-Mexico border and across “trafficking corridors in Mexico that connect to California and Arizona,” which these organizations control according to the DEA.

The artcle goes on to say that shows signs that some precursor chemical production has shifted to India after Chinese laws became more restrictive.

What we need to understand about China…

The conception of timescale in what was once called the New World is a completely different animal than ancient cultures like China.

For context, Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest, predates the New York Time’s propaganda date for the anchor point in US history (1619) by almost a decade. We’re a young nation.

In our thinking, WWII is ancient history, while for the Far East, WWII is what happened before breakfast. That mattersto this story because China is nursing a grudge every bit as old and bitter as the one that sparked a Civil War in America. The Opium Wars.

The Opium Wars

Wiki offers a good-enough summary for the unfamiliar here:

The First Opium War was fought from 1839 to 1842 between China and the United Kingdom, and was triggered by the Chinese government’s campaign to enforce its prohibition against opium trafficking by British merchants. The Second Opium War was waged by Britain and France against China from 1856 to 1860. In each war, the superior military advantages enjoyed by European forces led to several easy victories over the Chinese military, with the consequence that China was compelled to sign unequal treaties to grant favourable tariffs, trade concessions, reparations and territory to Western powers.
The two conflicts, along with the various treaties imposed during “century of humiliation”, weakened the Chinese government’s authority and forced China to open specified treaty ports (including Shanghai) to Western merchants. In addition, China ceded sovereignty over Hong Kong to the British Empire, which maintained control over the region until 1997.

If you look at Xi’s July 1 speech commemorating 100 years since the creation of the Chinese Communist Party, he specifically invokes those 100 years of humiliation, in the context of China as a rising power. If the British used opium to create a massive addiction problem in China to financially bleed the nation dry, why would China hesitate in using the same tactic to kneecap the West?

For Chinese cooperation, you would need a bargaining chip of greater value than the injured pride of a nearly 200-year-old grudge against harms sustained in a conflict with the British.

We happen to have one.

A barganing chip in the current opium war

Our desire to end the fentanyl trade here is motivated by our care and concern for the future of our children. The future of our children is a powerful motivating force. China cares about the future of its children too… enough that many of them come to American universities for their degrees.

What if we found a way to unite their concern for their children’s futures to our concern for our children’s futures?

There may be a way to link them.

How quickly do you suppose the overwhelming Fentanyl trade would dry up if we gave Chinese officials six months’ notice that unless we see a massive change in the Fentanyl Crisis by the end of a 6-month grace period, we will immediately suspend ALL current and future student visas from anyone with Chinese citizenship, including non-American dual citizenship, for educational degrees of ANY level.

Imagine if Congress specifically empowered ICE to identify non-compliant Universities? We could attach meaningful fines to universities for each offense — perhaps something in the 7 figure range — and after that, suspend federal student loan programs to students at any non-compliant schools for, let’s call it 4 years.

This is a simple solution, and it wouldn’t add a huge expense to the government. In fact, if it reduces fentanyl manufacture, it might even save us money. And schools would be motivated to compliance by the knowledge that letting Chinese nationals skirt the system could make an entire cohort of students unable to take loans needed to pay for school.

But, like those busloads of migrants to sanctuary cities, it would very quickly get the attention of people who CAN do something who simply haven’t cared about this issue until now.

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