TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Sheriffs from across Kansas visited the U.S. southern border on Friday to address a national “fentanyl crisis” that’s led to a spike in overdoses in the state.
The sheriffs joined the state’s Republican U.S. Senator Roger Marshall to meet with border patrol officials and get a firsthand account of what they’re dealing with.
Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Friday there’s been a significant increase in the amount of fentanyl-related drug seizures and overdoses in the state.
“We’re starting to see unprecedented drug seizures, overdoses, the human trafficking uptick,” Hill said. “Right now, Kansas is a border state. Our drugs are coming from here. There’s people coming from here.”
Hill called the tour an “eye-opening” experience. He said officials told their group there had been over 1,000 people apprehended within just an hour.
“We’ve seen the video of what they’ve encountered down here with the high-speed chases, and the mules running from law enforcement officers, and wrecking vehicles, and dumping people on the side of the highway,” Hill said.
In the past 14 months, more than 12,000 pounds of fentanyl-related substances was seized from criminals at the southern border.
While fentanyl has been the main concern, Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse said there’s also been an increase in other drugs traveling across the state and country.
“We’ve seen a big influx in drugs like heroin. We’ve always been fighting methamphetamine for the last 30 years, cocaine, all types of drugs,” Morse said.
On Friday, a federal judge ordered Title 42 policies to be kept in place. The policy is a pandemic-related health order, which allows the removal by the U.S. government of people who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease was present. It was established to control the transmission of coronavirus at the border.
The decision to keep the policy in place could delay plans for thousands of people seeking refuge in the U.S. However, it can also prevent further issues prompted by record numbers of migrants.
Marshall said the large numbers can cause confusion at the border. He said there are times when cartels use families “like a shield.”
“They’ll let a group of family members, maybe 60, 70, 80 people, they’ll let them cross the border … they’ll help them across the border … then 2 or 3 miles down the river, while border patrol officers are busy … they’re smuggling dope across the border,” he said.
Border security has been a big election-year issue for Republicans.
Fentanyl-related substances’ current Schedule I classification is temporary and set to expire later this year.
Marshall also emphasized concerns from border patrol officials over the potential expiration of Title 42.
On a trip to the border this week, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said that if Title 42 expires, it’s not suddenly “open season” down on the U.S.-Mexico border.
During Marshall’s trip with state sheriffs, the decision was still pending. At the time, the sheriffs and Marshall said border patrol officials were “preparing for the worse.”
“It’s a war zone here in so many ways. This is the number one national security problem facing the United States today,” Marshall said.