President Biden might want to pretend the fentanyl crisis and other tragedies aren’t happening

When President Joe Biden delivers his annual message to Congress Tuesday, we have little doubt that he will once again proclaim—as he has the past two years—that “the state of the Union is strong.”

But that is far from the truth.

What he’s certain not to mention is the historic crisis at the border that has been raging for two years, created and perpetuated by his and his administration’s open-border policies. Most recently, the crisis has included nine consecutive months where illegal border crossings exceeded 200,000, with the number in December exceeding 250,000—the most ever recorded. In total, the record-breaking influx of illegal immigrants in 2022 amounted to more than twice the population of Montana or half the population of Alabama.

Admittedly, taking responsibility for anything, let alone the worst border crisis in the history of our country, would be a lot to expect from this president. However, if he cares at all about Americans’ safety, he must start taking this crisis and its collateral consequences seriously, especially how the chaos at the border has enabled a deluge of deadly drugs and a wave of violent crime to sweep into and across our country.

During his presidency, Biden has welcomed approximately 5.5 million illegal immigrants onto American soil. It’s nearly impossible to imagine how the United States can absorb such a massive volume of people entering our nation illegally in such a short period of time. While Americans are renowned for their unlimited compassion, we do not have unlimited resources for everyone seeking entry into our nation. Since promising to “secure our border and fix the immigration system” during his 2022 State of the Union address, the border has become less secure and illegal immigration has become more rampant.

In our positions as state attorneys general, we know that law enforcement officers are insufficiently equipped to protect our residents from such a sudden and severe increase in crime. It’s no secret that violent crime and property crime are skyrocketing across the nation. The situation is desperate and compounded by the fact that the administration has virtually no vetting process in place to prevent criminals from crossing the border. It gets worse. Less than one month into 2023, the Department of Homeland Security released more than 500 illegal-immigrant criminals back into the communities where they were first detained. That’s on top of nearly 1,000 illegal-immigrant convicts released by DHS in December.

Homicides, assaults, domestic violence, sexual offenses, and other crimes committed by illegal immigrants increased dramatically between 2020 and 2021, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

We also know that the fentanyl crisis is being fueled by the uninhibited flow of Chinese-made chemicals to Mexican drug cartels, and then the unchallenged smuggling of Mexican-made fentanyl across the American border—all of which is being allowed with little interest or action taken by Biden and his administration. Instead, the federal government is directing overworked Border Patrol agents away from intercepting drugs at the border, giving priority to the processing of illegal immigrants.

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of the drug can be potentially lethal to any person without a tolerance. In 2022, over 110,000 Americans died from a drug overdose, with more than 68 percent of those overdose deaths being from fentanyl. For perspective, the number of people who died from a drug overdose could fill the home of Alabama Crimson Tide football, Bryant–Denny Stadium, to capacity and still have enough people left to fill the home of Alabama Crimson Tide basketball, Coleman Coliseum, to half-capacity.

Alabama’s Jefferson County alone reported 316 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2021, a 68 percent increase from 2020, with more people dying from fentanyl than from either homicides or motor-vehicle accidents. Statewide, the problem is worse. From 2020 to 2021, fentanyl-related overdose deaths across Alabama increased 136 percent.

In Montana, fentanyl-related overdoses have increased by more than 1,000 percent since 2017. Just between January 11 and 23 of this year, 28 nonfatal and 8 fatal fentanyl overdoses were reported across 13 different Montana counties.

Opioid addiction and overdoses are not “a ‘white’ thing,” as some have described it. Indeed, in recent years, the rate of overdose deaths among Native Americans has been the highest of all racial groups in Montana, and the increase in overdose deaths among African Americans has been the highest of all racial groups in Alabama. Far from such circumstances being unique to our states, they are representative of trends that are being observed nationwide.

It seems that President Biden would like to pretend all these tragedies aren’t happening, and that he and his policy preferences aren’t causing or exacerbating them. Given how much he likes President Reagan’s phrase about the nation being strong, he ought to try listening to the other half of it: “The state of our Union is strong,” Reagan said, “but our economy is troubled.”

A strong, courageous leader is eager to acknowledge and then tackle difficult realities like a troubled economy, or a border crisis, or skyrocketing crime, or a drug epidemic. A weak, cowardly leader is content to repeat pleasant fictions to himself about the world being great when, in fact, it’s crumbling all around him.

Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our president is weak.

By: Austin Knudsen & Steve Marshall

Austin Knudsen, Vice-Chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, is the Attorney General of Montana.

Steve Marshall,Chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, is the attorney general of Alabama