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The DEA has said that most of the meth in the U.S. comes from the southwest border.
It’s unknown exactly how much meth has come through the southwest border undetected or at what pace.
Meth seizure data does not show a steady uptick in the monthly number of pounds seized nor in the number of seizure events. Meth seizure at the southwest border has been increasing for years.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that Florida had a meth problem that is "really, really ravaging communities," particularly in the northern part of the state. The problem, he said, is worsening due to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
"That meth, if you go back 10, 20 years ago, you’d find these places where they’d be cooking this stuff up locally. That’s not what’s happening now," DeSantis said at a June 16 news conference. "It’s almost all coming across the southern border, and it’s been accelerating for the last six months, and it’s deepening the problems that we are having in terms of getting a handle on this in our own communities here in the state of Florida."
Part of DeSantis’ plan to address the problem is sending Florida law enforcement officers to states on the southwest border for about two weeks. At the news conference, with several sheriffs and state Attorney General Ashley Moody standing behind him, DeSantis did not clarify what exactly Florida officers would be doing in Texas and Arizona to assist with border enforcement — generally a federal matter.
DeSantis is right about the southwest border now being the most common point of entry for methamphetamine in the United States. But it’s misleading to portray an increase in meth trafficking as a result of Biden’s immigration policies. Increased flows predate Biden’s presidency.
DeSantis’ press office did not respond to our requests for more information.
Most of the meth available in the United States is clandestinely produced in Mexico and smuggled across the southwest border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Mexican criminal groups produce and supply meth that is low cost, highly pure and potent, a recent DEA report said.
Traffickers transport and conceal meth using various techniques, including human couriers, parcel services, commercial and private vehicles. In cars, they commonly conceal it in fuel tanks and tires.
Meth produced by criminal groups in Mexico has increasingly made its way into the U.S. ever since a 2006 U.S. law banned over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that had ingredients, such as pseudoephedrine, that were commonly used in the U.S. to make meth. That law, and a more potent and lower cost foreign meth, have contributed to decreased domestic production of meth.
Increased flow of meth across the southern border is a problem "of our own creation," said Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and director of its Drug Policy Project.
There’s no precise number for the total amount of foreign meth that comes into the United States — it’s difficult for anyone to quantify how much of it goes undetected and evades seizure by border officials. So it’s hard to say whether that amount has increased over the last six months and at what pace.
In the absence of comprehensive data, immigration officials, lawmakers, and analysts tend to rely on drug seizure data for a sense of how and where illicit drugs cross U.S. borders. Historically, officials seize more illicit drugs at ports of entry than between ports of entry.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection publishes data on drug seizure by officers at ports of entry — such as land checkpoints — and by Border Patrol agents who work between ports of entry. The agency offers two sets of seizure data: events and pounds.
So far, there’s only data for four full months of Biden’s time. It doesn’t clearly show an "accelerating" pace of meth seizure, and most of it has been seized at official checkpoints.
In February, officers at ports of entry and Border Patrol agents recorded 342 meth seizure events. That number increased in March to 371, but declined in April and again in May.
In weight, officials seized around 11,100 pounds of meth in February; that number increased in March, declined in April, and increased in May to nearly 19,800 pounds. But May’s figures are lower than the nearly 21,700 pounds seized in October, when Donald Trump was president.
The amount of meth seized by Border Patrol agents has increased annually since fiscal year 2013, said a 2020 Congressional Research Service report.
Meth seizure at the southwest border is increasing, Tree said, but "this is a very long-term trend."
DeSantis said meth is "almost all coming across the southern border and it’s been accelerating for the last six months."
Most of the meth in the U.S. comes from the southwest border.
But it’s unknown exactly how much meth comes through the southwest border undetected or at what pace. One metric, seizure data, does not show a steady uptick in the monthly number of pounds seized nor in the number of seizure events. Meth seizure at the southwest border has been increasing for years.
DeSantis’ claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details and context. We rate it Half True.
YouTube, WPBF - Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis press conference, June 16, 2021
PolitiFact, Majority of opioids come to U.S. through points of entry, Lowey says, Jan. 14, 2019
Drug Enforcement Administration, 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment report
U.S. Justice Department, DEA Diversion Control Division, CMEA (Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005); General Information Regarding The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 [Title VII of Public Law 109-177] Drug Enforcement Administration May 2006
U.S. National Library of Medicine, Methamphetamine
FDA.gov, Legal Requirements for the Sale and Purchase of Drug Products Containing Pseudoephedrine, Ephedrine, and Phenylpropanolamine, Content current as of: Nov. 24, 2017, accessed June 18, 2021
Phone interview, Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and director of its Drug Policy Project, June 18, 2021
Email interview, Justin Long at U.S. Customs and Border Protection press office, June 17, 2021
Congressional Research Service, Illicit Drug Smuggling Between Ports of Entry and Border Barriers, Feb. 7, 2020
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