Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday said that the Chinese communist regime “bears responsibility” for helping tackle the fentanyl crisis in the U.S. – pointing to areas in which China can assist the U.S. in stopping the drug getting into the country.
Mayorkas was asked at the Aspen Security Forum about whether China bears some responsibility for the U.S. fentanyl crisis, given that the precursor chemicals originate there.
“The precursor chemicals, many of which have legal use, the precursor chemicals, the pill presses that are used to manufacture fentanyl, it’s extremely easy to manufacture, it’s extremely quick, it’s easy to conceal,” he said. “We seized vertical, long vertical candles that were hollowed out with pills. China bears responsibility. We need their assistance in interdicting the chemicals and pill presses that are going in volumes that don’t reflect legitimate use.”
Illicit fentanyl is typically created in Mexico by cartels in labs with the use of precursors shipped over from China. The U.S. has called for an international coalition to combat the crisis and has appealed for help from both China and Mexico.
The drug is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and is often cut with other drugs and pressed into pills, meaning that the user doesn’t know they are ingesting fentanyl. It kills more than 70,000 Americans a year.
The amount of drugs seized at the southern border has shot up to more than 22,000 pounds so far this fiscal year, up from 14,000 pounds in fiscal year 2022 and just 5,600 pounds in fiscal year 2020.
Republicans have said the amount of fentanyl being seized is a consequence of the border crisis bringing more drugs and migrants to the border. The administration has touted the increase in seizures as a sign of the success of its efforts in increasing detection. Mayorkas on Thursday said that “some have used the border as a cudgel and conflated migration and the trafficking of fentanyl” but noted that the majority of seizures happen at ports of entry.
Mayorkas said he recently visited JFK International Airport in New York City and saw the number of small packages stopped that contained drugs and firearms.
“We are addressing the supply side from an enforcement perspective. We are harnessing artificial intelligence to advance our capacity to interdict drugs, to be able to see anomalies in passenger vehicles, commercial trucks. I will say the creativity of the smugglers is extraordinary,” he said. “And yet our ingenuity in building response protocols is also extraordinary.”
The U.S. isn’t the only country to put pressure on the Chinese to do more to tackle the fentanyl threat. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to do more this year in a letter in which he couldn’t resist taking a shot at American politicians critical of his own handling of the cartels that are running rampant in Mexico.
“I write to you, President Xi Jinping, not to ask your help on these rude threats, but to ask you for humanitarian reasons to help us by controlling the shipments of fentanyl,” he said.
Fox News’ Aubrie Spady contributed to this report.