Front Lines of the Fentanyl Fight: Stopping drugs at the U.S. Border

ARIZONA — Boston 25 News went to the southern border to learn how deadly fentanyl is sneaking through border checkpoints and getting into our communities.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an estimated 108,000 people died from a fentanyl overdose from February 2021 through February 2022. Fentanyl overdoses are also now the leading cause of death for people, ages 18-54 in America.

Blair Miller traveled to Nogales, Arizona, where you’ll find one of the busiest checkpoints for people to come and go between Mexico and the United States. That means it’s also a prime gateway for Mexican drug cartels. Right now, more fentanyl is coming in through Arizona than any other state in the country. And in this region, they’ve seized more fentanyl in the last three months of 2022, than the entire year before that.

Michael Humphries is the port director here in Nogales for U.S Customs and Border Protection.

He showed us what his field operations officers are up against.

The semi-trucks that come through here face random searches for fentanyl and that means offloading all the produce and officers going through it before loading it all back on.

Officers showed Miller how they recently found about 776,000 fentanyl pills hidden inside compartments built into the roof of an 18-wheeler. “The potential for millions or hundreds of 1000s of pills coming through at once,” said Humphries.

On the other side of the port, you see a backup of cars as far as the eye can see with people coming into America; each one faces new questions and scrutiny.

The officers, the trained law-enforcement dogs and the random X-rays of entire cars are all being used to try and curb the fentanyl crisis in America. “Some of these concealment methods these officers here are finding haven’t been seen before,” Humphries added.

Officers showed us the new tactics being used.

In January, officers found 19,000 fentanyl pills taped to the legs of a person trying to get it into the U.S.

They say it’s also not uncommon to find pills hidden inside car parts, like the 200,000 fentanyl pills and two pounds of fentanyl powder concealed inside the back seat of a vehicle. They’ve even found more people trying to hide thousands of pills inside their body cavity.

While the focus is largely on what comes into this country, officers say the cartels are usually eager for what comes back.

Drug payments are usually in the form of bulk American cash, guns, and ammunition.

“We’re seeing assault rifles, A-K-47′s, A-R type rifles, trying to get back into Mexico. Their livelihood, they want to make money, so they’re trying new ways all the time,” said Humphries.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW

Comments on this article