Rebecca Kiessling struggled to speak as she told members of Congress about the deaths of her two adult sons, who were both killed by fentanyl in 2020.
“You talk about welcoming those crossing our border seeking protection—[but] you’re welcoming drug dealers across our border, you’re giving them protection. You’re not protecting our children,” Kiessling testified Tuesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.
“This is a war,” she said. “Act like it. Do something.”
Kiessling, a Michigan resident, was one of four witnesses to testify during the hearing, titled “Every State is a Border State: Examining Secretary Mayorkas’ Border Crisis.”
“We are the Committee on Homeland Security. We must secure our homeland now,” Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., chairman of the panel, said in opening remarks.
Kiessling’s two sons were 18 and 20 when they bought what turned out to be “fake Percocets” from a drug dealer, she said, referrring to a brand name for oxycodone acetaminophen.
“There was no Percocet in it at all,” the mother said, adding that her sons’ deaths each was “a homicide, not overdose.”
“My children were taken away from me,” Kiessling said.
The mother said the drug dealer who sold her sons the pills also took them but was saved by the synthetic drug naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan and used in the event of an opioid overdose.
Because the drug dealer survived, investigators were able to find out where he got the pills and ultimately “made it clear to me that this fentanyl came from Mexico,” the mother said.
“Drug overdose deaths have risen fivefold over the past two decades,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in a report released in December
Fewer than 20,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in America in 2000, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Twenty years later, in 2020, a total of 91,799 fatal drug overdoses occurred, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Opioids such as fentanyl were involved in 68,630, or 75%, of these overdose deaths.
In 2021, the U.S. recorded more than 107,000 deaths from drug overdoses or poisonings, and nearly 70% of those were due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, according to the CDC.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45.
Two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to be potentially lethal to the average adult, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. For comparison, one teaspoon of table salt contains about 2,325 milligrams.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that it seized just over 14,000 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30, and more than 12,000 pounds between October and the end of January.
Rep. Carlos Giménez, R-Fla., said during the hearing that the federal government should do much more to stop cartels from smuggling fentanyl and other drugs into the country.
“A little bit over 20 years ago, a terrorist organization came over and killed about 3,000 Americans,” Giménez said of the 9/11 attacks, adding that the government’s response was two decades of war in Afghanistan.
“We’re doing absolutely nothing about a terrorist organization that is killing far more Americans every single year,” the Florida Republican said.
Mark Lamb, the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, testified that he has “seen a 600% increase in fentanyl in my community.”
Pinal County, located between Phoenix and Tuscon, is just over 50 miles from the U.S. border with Mexico.
“In 2019, we had around 700 pills [seized]. In 2020, we had over 200,000 pills,” Lamb said. “In 2021, we had over 1.2 million pills. And this last year, we had over 1.4 million pills come into my community.”
While Kiessling and Lamb stressed a need for more border security, David Bier, associate director of immigration studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., told the committee: “Congress should focus on helping drug users, not banning immigrants.”
Crackdowns on illegal immigration have spurred the cartels to produce more potent drugs, Bier argued.
“The restrictions on trade and travel that started in 2020 have only exacerbated the problem,” he said. “Because fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin, it can supply the same market with far fewer trips. So with fewer trips and more scrutiny in 2020 and 2021, traffickers switched from heroin to fentanyl, and fentanyl deaths doubled.”
Bier told committee members that they should “focus on protecting drug users, not more crackdowns,” adding: “Not more border crackdowns, not more banning of asylum, that’s not the answer to this problem.”
Moments later, Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., asked Lamb for his thoughts on Bier’s argument.
“While I agree you have to curb demand, this is like mopping the bathroom floor without turning off the tub water,” the Arizona sheriff said.
A “lack of fortitude to secure our border has created an opportunity for the cartels,” the sheriff added.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.