Ariz. Sheriff: 'You Have to Stop Saying The Border is Secure,' It 'Is Not Secure'

Michael W. Chapman | March 3, 2023 | 2:23pm EST
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Sheriff Mark Lamb.  (Screenshot, CSPAN)
Sheriff Mark Lamb. (Screenshot, CSPAN)

( -- In just one area of Arizona, not even on the border with Mexico, fentanyl pill seizures have gone up 610% in two years and human trafficking has risen 377%. Testifying about the crisis, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb told Congress to "stop saying the border is secure, because the border is not secure."

Sheriff Lamb spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Feb. 28. He was joined by Rebecca Kiessling, a private citizen, whose two teenage sons were killed by ingesting fake Percocet pills that were made with fentanyl. They did not know what they were consuming. 

Lamb first explained that Pinal County, which he polices, is about the size of Connecticut and is 52 miles north of the Mexico border.  It is what he called a "pass-through community," an area where much of the drugs and human smuggling passes through on their way to other parts of the country.

"The drugs that make it into your states come through my county at one point," said Lamb. 

For some perspective on the crime, he said, "We've had a 377% increae in the last two years for traffic stops involving human smuggling and trafficking. We've had a 461% increae in pursuits involving human smuggling, putting my citizens at rick."

"Now, the drivers are predominantly American," he said, "but oftentimes they are juveniles being actively recruited by the cartel on social media, paying them thousands of dollars per person that they transport into my community."

Fentanyl pills.  (DEA)
Fentanyl pills. (DEA)

Sheriff Lamb then discussed a case in which his officers came across a woman who was being smuggled.

"When they come here, the women are being raped," said Lamb. "A woman we caught a while back had a bag full of pills, and we said, 'What are these pills?' She says, 'When I came across the border I knew I would be raped multiple times. These are morning-after pills.'"

Lamb then said, have we "lost our moral compass so badly we put politics in front of people?"

"They are raping the children, using them as pawns, oftentimes putting them in the sex trade here in America," said the sheriff. "Slavery is super prolific nowadays."

"They are extorting the men," he added. "They put cartel -- how many times can they sell you a pill? Once.  How many times can they sell you a woman?  Hundreds. How many times can you sell a child? Hundreds. And this is what the cartel is doing."

Lamb then mentioned that his county has seen a "610% increase in fentanyl" seizures. 

Rebecca Kiessling and her two sons, Caleb and Kyler, who were killed by fentanyl poisoning.  (Rebecca Kiessling)
Rebecca Kiessling and her two sons, Caleb and Kyler, who were killed by fentanyl poisoning. (Rebecca Kiessling)

"In 2018, we had zero seizures" of fentanyl, he said, "and in 2019 we had around 700 pills. In 2020 we had over 200,000 pills. In 2021 we had over 1.2 million pills, and this last year we had over 1.4 million pills come into my community."

In the state, in 2021, "we lost 44 children to [fentanyl] poisoning, under the age of 17," said Sheriff Lamb. "Seven were under the age of one year old. If that doesn't mobilize the forces of the country to stop this problem, I don't know what will. This is what we deal with on a daily basis."

In his closing comments, Sheriff Lamb said, "I will tell you, the lines of communication were severed when this [Biden] administration took over. We have zero communication on the federal side, which is disappointing."

"I would also just like to say in closing that we've got to do better on saying -- the messaging, the media, the politicians -- you've got to stop saying it's a manufactured crisis. The statistics I've given you say otherwise. And you have to stop saying that the border is secure, because the border is not secure." 

(Photo: Rebecca Kiessling)
(Photo: Rebecca Kiessling)

According to the CDC, among all overdose deaths nationwide in 2020, synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) were the main driver in 82.3% of the cases. In 2021, 106,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. 

In a March 2 commentary in the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said President Joe Biden needs to deploy the U.S. military to severely cripple the "narco-terrorist cartels."

If the Mexican government is "unwilling or unable" to stop the cartels, "then the country being harmed [U.S.] has the right to take direct action to eliminate the threat, with or without the host country’s approval," said Barr. 

The cartels must be treated as "national-security threats," he added, because they are "more like ISIS than like the American mafia." 

Mexican drug cartel money seized by U.S. law enforcement.  (Getty Images)
Mexican drug cartel money seized by U.S. law enforcement. (Getty Images)
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