Trump officials to sheriffs: Drug crisis tied to border security

Updated: Sep 4, 2019


Three high-ranking officials in President Donald Trump's administration have come to Louisville in recent days to promote increased security at the border to the National Sheriffs' Association, alleging it will equal fewer drugs in their counties.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told more than 800 sheriffs gathered in a ballroom on Monday for their annual conference that he southern border is the largest entry point for heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine.

President Donald J. Trump delivers the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives January 30, 2018 in Washington, DC.

"Having a porous southern border makes every county in American more vulnerable to these drugs," Rosen said.

That message was echoed by acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Mark Morgan, who also visited the sheriffs at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Every sheriff is grappling with an opioid crisis that affects all demographics, and high-quality methamphetamine being manufactured in Mexico is increasingly replacing low-quality speed being cooked in two-liter bottles by local users and dealers.

But the officials sought to change a perspective among many sheriffs that immigration is a problem for federal agencies, or at least for such agencies in border counties.

"As sheriffs, you know that gang violence and illegal drugs entering at our southern borders spread quickly to every corner of the country," McAleenan said Monday in his speech.

The ability to detect illegal drugs is being hampered by what President Donald Trump and his administration have repeatedly called a "humanitarian crisis" at the border.

McAleenan listed off statistics from what he described as a "record breaking" month of May along the Mexican border:

More than 144,000 people were apprehended or found inadmissible, and 90 percent of them are undocumented immigrants.More than 5,800 border crossings took place in one 24-hour period.The largest single group to ever attempt a crossing was comprised of 1,036 people.

"Historically, the vast majority of illegal border crossers were single adults from Mexico who could be quickly repatriated," McAleenan said. "Now, 72 percent of our enforcement actions in May were unaccompanied children or family units."

Rosen assured the sheriffs the U.S. Attorney General's office wants to hear from them and will tailor their programs and grants to local priorities.

"The Department of Justice is here with you shoulder to shoulder in this fight against the drug epidemic ravaging our communities," Rosen said.

The visits come one week after McAleenan and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar sent a joint letter to Congress urging them to approve $4.5 billion in emergency supplemental funding.

The funding request has been blocked by Democrats in Congress who disagree with Trump's border wall and allege he is politicizing immigration issues.

Critics have assailed the treatment of immigrants and children separated from their parents, and have countered that most illegal drugs come through legal entry points.

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