NACO, Ariz. (NewsNation) — Amid the rise of fentanyl being trafficked across the U.S.-Mexico border and into communities across America, two congressmen have introduced a bill to make the distribution of fentanyl resulting in death a felony murder offense.
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 for America to come together and keep our kids safe, and part of that is making sure fentanyl isn’t on our streets,” Gonzales told NewsNation. “The other part of that is to make sure that anyone that does put fentanyl on our streets has the book thrown at them, that they’re held to the highest levels of legal cause for that.”
The Nogales, Arizona port of entry has seized a large majority of the fentanyl coming across the southern border — 5.1 million pills and more than 42.2 pounds of fentanyl powder have been seized since Aug. 1.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a warning for “rainbow” fentanyl,” pills that look like candy but have a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The agency also claims the drug is present in 18 states — meaning hundreds of thousands of pills are getting past CBP officers, Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement agencies.
“Fentanyl is killing Americans at a record high,” Rubio said in a statement. “This deadly drug is widespread throughout our country and has left no community untouched. This bill would make drug dealers 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 year before, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The synthetic opioid is a major driver of the rising rate of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., 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 debunked similar claims that fentanyl is the leading cause of death among U.S. adults. Both heart disease and cancer kill more people, according to the CDC.
Several Republican lawmakers have reiterated the claim in recent months, as they have proposed legislation to address the drug’s impact, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) while pitching legislation in June to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.
On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order that designated cartels as terrorist organizations. He directed Texas DPS to dismantle any gang activity and any cartel-related activity.
This comes as Abbott says that Texas DPS has seized enough fentanyl to kill everybody in the entire United States. He says that has been happening since Operation Lonestar began last year.
The Hill contributed to this report.