The opioid crisis and the border Wall

The states hardest hit by the opioid crisis are a long way from the Mexican border. Trump’s Wall remains a solution in search of a problem.

One of the sillier talking points in the Wall debate is that we need a physical barrier to keep opioids from coming into the country from Mexico.  Various commenters have pointed out that: (1) The fentanyls, which are the fastest-growing segment of opioid use and overdose deaths, mostly come directly from China; and (2) What does come across the U.S./Mexico border comes through overwhelmingly by common carrier at ports of entry; it isn’t backpacked through the desert by immigrants.

A point I haven’t seen made, and didn’t know about until Kevin Drum posted this graph based on data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is that the crisis isn’t concentrated anywhere near Mexico. All of the hardest-hit states in terms of opioid mortality rates are east of the Mississippi and north of the Tennessee, about as far as they could be from the Rio Grande. Of the four states that actually border Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona are in the middle of the pack, while California and Texas rank 45th and 47th.

So Trump’s Wall remains a solution in search of a problem.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

2 thoughts on “The opioid crisis and the border Wall”

  1. If you’re going to take the stupid talking point seriously, you might as well at least look at where undocumented workers go (since we still have mostly unhindered travel within the US). AFAIK it’s the usual cities, plus agricultural states with special attention to meat-packing, dairy and other sweatshop-style work. (In Vermont, for example, there’s a thing about getting undocumented immigrants ID that can serve as a driving license, because otherwise they’re essentially trapped in many middles of nowhere.)

    A quick look at candidate states on that basis suggests that duh, no, the big opioid problems aren’t there either. Who would have thought that those sneaky drug smugglers would have essentially nothing to do with people crossing the border for work or safety?

  2. I don’t see the relevance of the fact that the opioid crisis is concentrated elsewhere than the border. If the drugs could be stopped from entering the country, presumably they could not enter West Virginia.

    It’s also irrelevant that the wall would not stop all drugs from entering. No single measure will do that. If a wall is the most cost effective way of stopping even a fraction of the drugs, then from a purely interdiction standpoint, it is worthwhile.

    I’m not an advocate of the wall because I don’t believe in prohibition and I think $6 billion dollars could be better spent on drug treatment.

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