This op-ed by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) first appeared in the Daily Advertiser on May 10, 2023. It also appeared in the Shreveport Times, Monroe News Star, and Daily World.
Fentanyl has torn too many Louisiana families apart. With President Biden ending Title 42 this week, I fear the problem could get worse before it gets better.
Title 42 is a public health law that allowed our border agents to quickly turn away migrants trying to enter the country during the pandemic. Before Title 42, our foolish catch-and-release policies encouraged some migrants to come to the U.S. because they could stay for years while their claims were processed. While the pandemic has ended, the need to quickly remove migrants under Title 42 has not.
Under President Biden, more than 5 million illegal aliens have entered the country — more than the entire population of Louisiana. Without Title 42, the problem will get worse, and President Biden knows it. That’s why he deployed 1,500 troops to help manage the influx. While we are grateful for the border agents and our troops, there is only so much they can do under Biden’s disastrous catch-and-release policies. More than 150,000 people are already at the border in Mexico waiting for Title 42’s demise this week.
But it’s not just migrants seeking to abuse our broken immigration system. The cartels are eager to exploit it, too. And they’re gearing up to send more poisonous fentanyl into Louisiana.
Fentanyl has brought so much pain to our state. In 2021, 94% of drug overdose deaths in New Orleans were related to fentanyl. East Baton Rouge Parish’s coroner investigated 300 overdose deaths and found that 88% of those deaths involved fentanyl. In the average month, St. Tammany Parish loses 10 or 11 people to fentanyl overdoses.
Don’t grow numb to the numbers. Each one of these deaths has devastated a Louisiana family.
Fentanyl brings Louisianians heartbreak, but it brings the cartels a lot of money. The Sinaloa Cartel—which El Chapo’s sons now lead—called fentanyl one of the cartel’s “most lucrative endeavors.”
These ghouls are terrorizing our communities. That’s why I introduced the Notorious, Aggressive, and Remorseless Criminal Organizations and Syndicates Act of 2023 — known as the NARCOS Act — which would designate these cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
But we need to do more to punish fentanyl traffickers on our side of the border, too.
Today, criminal traffickers can possess up to 40 grams of fentanyl before they will face the 5-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. But just two milligrams of fentanyl can end a life. That means a trafficker can tote enough fentanyl to kill 20,000 before he would face the five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
To face the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, fentanyl traffickers would have to carry at least 400 grams of fentanyl. That’s enough to kill 200,000 people. In other words, a drug thug could possess enough fentanyl to kill all 184,000 residents of Shreveport and still fall short of the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.
My bill would right this wrong and help save lives. I wrote the Fairness in Fentanyl Sentencing Act to reduce the fentanyl threshold for the five-year mandatory minimum sentence from 40 grams down to just two grams.
To be clear: This bill does not aim to punish addicts for falling victim to cartel schemes hatched in Mexico and fueled by Chinese fentanyl makers. Like other parents in Louisiana, I want to help fentanyl victims before it’s too late. That’s why this bill would punish the traffickers who are pumping this poison into Louisiana streets, schools, and homes. We must lock these killers away from our communities through punishments proportional to the amount of lives their fentanyl supply could steal.
I refuse to let Congress twiddle its thumbs while fentanyl destroys a generation. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for 18 to 49-year-olds. It’s ending lives before they begin. I’ll continue to do all I can to secure the border and end the flow of fentanyl into Louisiana. I hope my colleagues in Washington will join me.