NACO, Ariz. (NewsNation) — Amid increased trafficking of fentanyl across the U.S.-Mexico border and into communities across America, two members of Congress have introduced a bill to make distribution of fentanyl resulting in death a felony of murder.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales introduced the Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act, Rubio was joined by 13 Republican co-sponsors on the Senate side.
“Sign up for America to come together and protect our children, and part of that is making sure fentanyl is off our streets,” Gonzales told NewsNation. “The other part of it is making sure that anyone who puts fentanyl on our streets gets the book thrown at them, that they’re held to the highest levels of legal cause for that.”
The port of entry in Nogales, Arizona has seized the vast majority of fentanyl crossing the southern border – 5.1 million pills and more than 42.2 pounds of fentanyl powder have been seized since August 1.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a warning for “rainbow” fentanyl, pills that look like candy but contain a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. The agency also says the drug is in 18 states, meaning hundreds of thousands of pills pass CBP officers, Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement agencies.
“Fentanyl is killing Americans at an all-time high,” Rubio said in a statement. “This deadly drug is prevalent throughout our country and has spared no community. This bill would make drug traffickers pay the price for selling deadly fentanyl.
Fentanyl overdoses resulted in about 71,000 deaths in the United States in 2021, up from about 58,000 the previous year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The synthetic opioid is a major driver of the rising drug overdose death rate in the United States, which reached record highs in 2021.
Rubio said in his announcement that fentanyl use is the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. The Associated Press has denied similar claims that fentanyl is the leading cause of death among American adults. Heart disease and cancer are killing more people, according to the CDC.
Several Republican lawmakers have reiterated that claim over the past few months as they proposed legislation to address the impact of the drug, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) While proposing legislation in June to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.
On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order that designates the cartels as terrorist organizations. He ordered the Texas DPS to dismantle all gang activity and cartel-related activity.
It comes as Abbott says the Texas DPS has seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in the United States. He says this has been happening since Operation Lonestar began last year.
Hill contributed to this report.