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In Manchester and Nashua, Fentanyl Death Toll Keeps Rising

Nashua and Manchester continue chasing a grim record as opioid-related overdose deaths continue to rise in the two cities. 

According to data released Thursday by ambulance company American Medical Response, there were 77 suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua and Manchester during September 2022 bringing the combined total for this year to 701.

And they warn there is no end in sight.

“Preliminary data show Nashua has experienced 33 suspected opioid-related deaths through September. That is 3 more deaths than during all of 2021,” said Chris Stawasz, Northeast Regional Director of Government Affairs for AMR. “Nashua remains on pace to have the highest number of suspected deaths from opioids in one year since the opioid epidemic began in 2015. Manchester is also still on pace to have the highest number of suspected opioid-related deaths in a one-year period since 2017.”

This year’s number of opioid-related overdose deaths is already close to last year’s totals. Manchester had more than 500 suspected overdoses in 2021, 30 percent more than the previous year, and Nashua had 250 suspected overdoses in 2021, which was 29 percent more than in 2020.

Stawasz said opioids like Fentanyl are not the only thing first responders are worried about. The growing prevalence of methamphetamines on New Hampshire streets is concerning, he said.

“Methamphetamine, which is not currently tracked and is not included in this report, continues to be seen mixed with opioids. Meth is a particularly dangerous drug for both users and first responders as it can cause extreme excited delirium and alarmingly unpredictable behavior in users,” Stawasz said.

Meth use has been linked to violent incidents in recent years, with several fatal police shootings involving people who were heavy meth users coming into conflict with police.

Both methamphetamine and fentanyl are coming over the Mexican border and making their way into New Hampshire, according to law enforcement. Mexican drug cartels are getting the necessary chemicals to make the deadly drugs from Chinese triads. The partnership extends to billions of dollars being laundered by the triads for the cartels, with the knowledge of China’s government.

The drugs continue to stream over the border, which has seen record numbers of people illegally crossing. The Border Patrol reports it apprehended 2 million people this year, the largest number of illegal crossings in history. That blows past last year’s figure of 1.7 million people coming over the border illegally, which was a record number at the time.

Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan received testimony on the need to secure the border from national law enforcement officials during a hearing earlier this year. Jon DeLena, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Division for the DEA, testified regarding the danger posed by the cartels.

“The model of the drug cartels right now is simple. Relentless expansion and addiction. They simply don’t care if Americans die. They only want to reach more Americans in unprecedented ways. This is a moment in time, our moment where we have to do everything we can to reverse this deadly trend,” DeLena said.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the testimony offered by Mr. DeLena.

Report: Chinese Government Exploiting Southern Border to Feed Fentanyl Epidemic

An explosive report published in ProPublica links the official policy of China’s government to the fentanyl epidemic killing Americans, including a record number of Granite Staters. And Granite State GOP opponents of President Joe Biden’s border policy are pointing to it as more proof it is time to make a change in Washington.

ProPublica released a story last weekend by reporters Sebastian Rotella and Kirsten Berg about a Chinese American gangster named Xizhi Li who came to dominate the money laundering market for Mexican drug cartels. The ruthless cartels are making billions sending fentanyl and other drugs to users in the United States and beyond through the porous Southern border.

“At no time in the history of organized crime is there an example where a revenue stream has been taken over like this, and without a shot being fired,” retired DEA agent Thomas Cindric, a veteran of the elite Special Operations Division, told ProPublica. “This has enriched the Mexican cartels beyond their wildest dreams.”

Since 2006, China has exported more than $3.8 trillion through money laundering schemes according to the report. China now leads the world as the primary financial underwriter for the cartels.

According to ProPublica, the Chinese government certainly knows that its citizens around the globe are involved in money laundering for the cartels and it approves.

With a major world power now suspected of using America’s unsecured southern border to attack the United States, Republicans like retired Gen. Don Bolduc are laying the blame at the feed of Biden and his Democratic allies, including his opponent Sen. Maggie Hassan.

“It’s no secret the drug crisis is plaguing New Hampshire communities and families, exacerbated by the open-border policies supported by Sen. Hassan,” Bolduc’s spokesperson Kate Constantini told NHJournal. “Drugs are pouring in and killing Granite Staters while Sen. Hassan is hiding in her safe and cushy D.C. office. Parents across the country now have to worry about telling their own children they can’t eat Halloween candy because Democrats like Sen. Hassan continue to stay soft on crime and drugs.

“We’ll gladly compare our vision for a secure border and strong communities over Sen. Hassan’s pathetic record any day.”

The issue is more problematic for Hassan because she sits on the powerful Homeland Security Committee which has direct oversight of border security policy.

Former senior FBI official Frank Montoya, Jr. told ProPublica China supports the money laundering business which props up the cartels as part of a policy to further weaken the United States.

“We suspected a Chinese ideological and strategic motivation behind the drug and money activity,” Montoya told ProPublica.

He offered this rationale to ProPublica for the Communist government’s policy.

“To fan the flames of hate and division. The Chinese have seen the advantages of the drug trade. If fentanyl helps them and hurts this country, why not?”

The Hassan campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But in the first U.S. Senate debate of the general election Tuesday, Hassan insisted she supports “a secure, orderly and humane border,” and that she supports additional “physical barriers,” aka “a wall.”

But as a senator, Hassan repeatedly voted against funding the border wall former President Donald Trump tried to build while he was in office. And she opposes deporting illegal immigrants who successfully make their way into the nation, also known as “interior enforcement.” 

Karoline Leavitt, in an apparent neck-and-neck race with incumbent Democrat Rep. Chris Pappas, also blames her opponent for the border problem.

“With each passing day, Chinese fentanyl continues to be smuggled across our wide-open southern border. Our families and communities are being poisoned by this dangerous drug, and we cannot afford another weak leader in D.C. who will act as if this problem isn’t occurring,” Leavitt said. “We need a representative who will work with law enforcement to secure our communities and stop this dangerous drug from pouring into our state.”

Pappas also did not respond to a request for comment.

Both Pappas and Hassan heard testimony earlier this year from national security officials who testified that Chinese triads are supplying Mexican cartels with the chemicals needed to make fentanyl. Those drugs are making their way into New Hampshire with deadly consequences.

New Hampshire’s two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua, are on target for record opioid overdose deaths this year, thanks to the fentanyl flooding the streets. According to American Medical Response, a large ambulance company that services New Hampshire, opioid deaths continue to rise.

Data for August, the most recent set available, show Nashua has seen 32 suspected opioid-related deaths, topping last year’s 30 opioid deaths.

“Nashua remains on pace to have the highest number of suspected deaths from opioids in one year since the opioid epidemic began in 2015,” AMR states in its monthly report.

Manchester is on pace to have the highest number of suspected opioid-related deaths in a year since 2017, with more than 71 opioid deaths projected for the year. As of the end of August, the Queen City has 45 suspected opioid overdose deaths on record.

As Pols Debate Border Security, NH Opioid Deaths Climb

The rate of overdose deaths from the opioid epidemic continues to climb in Manchester and Nashua, with both cities approaching record deaths this year. And Republicans are pointing a finger at President Joe Biden’s border crisis.

According to Chris Stawasz with American Medical Response, first responders were called to 86 suspected opioid overdoses in Nashua and Manchester during July 2022, bringing this year’s total to 539. That is 99 more incidents than the same period last year, a 23 percent increase.

Nashua is on track to have the highest number of opioid deaths in a year since the start of the pandemic. Manchester is looking to break the record it set in 2017.

“Preliminary data shows Nashua has experienced 29 suspected opioid-related deaths through July. There were 30 suspected opioid-related deaths in Nashua during all of 2021. Nashua remains on pace to have the highest number of suspected deaths from opioids in one year since the opioid epidemic began in 2015. Manchester is still on pace to have the highest number of suspected opioid-related deaths in a one-year period since 2017,” Stawasz said.

There were 10 likely opioid-related deaths in July, eight in Manchester, and two in Nashua. Their causes are still pending verification from the Office of the New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner. 

Republicans note the surge in unlawful border crossings since Biden took office and the flood of fentanyl across the southern border.

So far this year, United States Customs and Border Patrol has seized about 133,000 pounds of methamphetamine at the border, compared to more than 8,000 pounds of fentanyl, and 50,000 pounds of cocaine.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Samantha Bullock says voters should hold elected Democrats like Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas to account.

“Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster have buried their heads in the sand to avoid addressing Democrats’ southern border crisis that’s allowing deadly drugs to destroy New Hampshire communities.”

A spokesperson for the House Republican Conference reiterated that point to the Washington Examiner.

“Joe Biden’s open-border policies have plunged our southern border into absolute chaos. It is a fact that Biden’s fentanyl crisis is directly a result of his border crisis, as the illegal drugs pour in over the wide open southern border,” the spokesperson said.

In New Hampshire’s two largest cities, Stawasz says first responders are dealing with people overdosing after they use drugs that they did not believe were opioids.

“AMR medics continue to see and listen to reports from suspected opioid OD patients who believed they were not specifically using opioids and were surprised that they overdosed on an opioid,” Stawasz said.

Stawasz told Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen during a July roundtable that dealers are putting potentially deadly doses of fentanyl into other drugs and selling them to unsuspecting users.

“I personally have experienced several occasions on a call when someone we’ve woken up from an opioid overdose will insist, ‘I was not using an opioid, I’m not an opioid user. I smoke marijuana. But I bought it from a different person.’ I think that’s contributing to an increased number of deaths,” Stawasz said.

July also saw an increase in the number of patients treated who reported or were suspected of consuming methamphetamine. Methamphetamine use numbers are not currently tracked and are not included in this report. Meth is a particularly dangerous drug for both users and first responders as it can cause extremely excited delirium and alarmingly unpredictable behavior in users.

Methamphetamine is seen by federal law enforcement as a growing problem in New Hampshire. It is coming into the United States in the same way as fentanyl, largely from Mexican cartels who smuggle the drugs over the border. 

 

In NH-02 Primary Debate, GOP Candidates Clash on Immigration, Abortion

The three Republican candidates vying to take on Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster this fall clashed over immigration and abortion Monday night during the New Hampshire Journal debate at Saint Anselm’s New Hampshire Institute for Politics. 

Bob Burns, the “pro-Trump” candidate from Pembroke, spent most of the night on offense. He attacked his opponents, Weare’s Lily Tang Williams and Keene Mayor George Hansel, over their stances on illegal immigration. 

Burns accused Tang Williams of supporting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and called out “Woke George’s sanctuary city, Keene.”

“So, you’re lying again, Bob, as usual,” Hansel responded. “Keene is not a sanctuary city.”

Hansel said Keene’s police chief assured him the department will cooperate with federal agents when enforcing immigration laws, as opposed to the policies in actual sanctuary cities where police do not assist federal immigration agents.

Tang Williams also accused Burns of lying about her record. She supports a pathway to citizenship for people who qualify for the DACA program, those brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children and who were raised in America. However, she said she does not support a pathway for people who came illegally as adults.

“Bob’s campaign has been attacking me from the very beginning,” Tang Williams said. “Who needs Democrats when you have Republicans attacking you?”

They also differ on abortion considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case. Burns said if elected he will push for a federal heartbeat bill that would limit abortions nationally.

“Instead of codifying Roe v. Wade, we should be codifying life,” Burns said.

Tang Williams supports the recent Supreme Court ruling to send the question of abortion back to the states, allowing local voters to make their own decision. Tang Williams does not support any new federal law regulating or banning abortion, saying the matter needs to be left to the people in each state.

“It should always belong to the states to let local people decide it,” she said.

Hansel, who is pro-choice, agrees with the Dobbs ruling, saying it allows states to craft laws that make sense for their own people. He does not support any federal law regarding abortion.

“This is an issue that is firmly with the states, which is where it belongs,” Hansel said. “This is a contentious issue, and the decisions belong as close to the people as possible.”

Hansel said voters are very concerned about record levels of inflation and soaring energy prices, issues where President Joe Biden’s administration has failed and they are not up for fighting more culture war battles.

“It’s all about inflation, it’s all about the higher costs that people are paying here in New Hampshire because of Joe Biden and Ann Kuster’s reckless Washington agenda,” Hansel said.

Both Tang Williams and Burns sent out press releases Monday night claiming victory in the debate.

The full debate, hosted by NH Journal, is available for streaming online at NH Journal’s Facebook page.

 

The Number of NH Opioid Overdose Deaths Keeps Climbing

The opioid addiction crisis in New Hampshire continues to worsen as Nashua and Manchester recorded another month of increased overdoses and deaths. 

According to Chris Stawasz, Northeast Regional Director of Government Affairs with Global Medical Response, Nashua is expected to have a record number of deaths this year.

“Nashua is still on pace to have the highest number of suspected deaths from opioids since the opioid epidemic began in 2015,” Stawasz said.

Through the end of June, Nashua and Manchester have seen a 20 percent increase in opioid overdoses from the same time last year. In the two cities alone, there have been 453 overdoses in the first half of 2022 and 45 suspected overdose deaths. The two cities typically have among the highest rates of overdoses and overdose deaths in the state.

Nashua currently has 27 suspected opioid overdose deaths this year. In 2021, the city recorded 30 such deaths. If the addiction crisis continues at that pace, Nashua will likely have a record 55 deaths this year, according to projections. In Manchester, the projection expects 59 opioid deaths, the highest total since 2018.

State and federal law enforcement is working to stop the flow of drugs into the state. Michael Garrity, the director of communications for the New Hampshire Department of Justice, said the state Drug Task Force goes after dealers at all levels.

“The NH DOJ continues to work with its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute individuals and groups who seek to traffic in opioids and perpetuate this epidemic within New Hampshire communities,” Garrity said. “Additionally, the Attorney General’s Drug Task Force works within local New Hampshire communities to target drug dealers, including opioid dealers, at all levels.”

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced a new New England Prescription Opioid (NEPO) Strike Force to combat the illegal use of prescriptions by doctors, pharmacists, and others in the medical field to distribute opioids. The strike force combines efforts in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine and will operate out of Concord.

But law enforcement in New Hampshire can’t control the southern border, where most of the fentanyl that reaches the Granite State originates.

Jon DeLena, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Division for the DEA, told Democrats U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan,  U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster during a Homeland Security Committee presentation that Mexico is the key to the drug epidemic.

“It’s the goal of DEA always to try to map these networks and to take these investigations literally from Mexico to Main Street What we’re doing now in all 11 offices throughout Mexico is trying to target the highest-level violators within the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación) who ultimately are impacting the East Coast of the United States more than anybody, and right here in New Hampshire as well,” DeLena said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have been making record seizures of drugs at the border, with a 1,066 percent increase in the amount of fentanyl seized in the last fiscal year in south Texas.

The means 87,652 pounds of narcotics, including 588 pounds of fentanyl, with a total street value of worth $786 million, were seized at eight ports from Brownsville to Del Rio, Texas, according to CBP. The street value of the drugs is worth $786 million.

Those seizures obviously have not stopped the drugs from getting into the United States and making their way to New Hampshire. Even though drug seizures are up, the border itself is less secure. According to CPB, illegal border crossing is up significantly.

“The number of unique individuals encountered nationwide in May 2022 was 177,793, a 15 percent increase in the number of unique enforcement encounters over the prior month,” according to the latest CPB report.

Dems Attack Smith’s Dad-Daughter Cameo in Education TV Ad

Democrats are mocking U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Smith over his appearance in a commercial for an education app that helps students complete their homework.

Gates MacPherson, deputy communications director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, tweeted a screenshot of the ad Smith made for education company Brainly

“In addition to running as a B-tier Senate candidate, Kevin Smith is also a… paid actor, according to his personal financial disclosure, and made $900 from the New England Models Group for appearing in an ad,” MacPherson tweeted.

Smith took the Democratic Twitter snark in stride, saying he only appeared in the ad to support his daughter, who was being featured by Brainly. The ad partially deals with struggles faced by students due to classroom lockdowns — a policy promoted and defended by Democrats like U. Sen. Maggie Hassan.

 

“While my acting career was short-lived and in support of my daughter, Maggie Hassan’s election year act is alive and well, although widely panned by critics,” Smith said.

A wave of post-lockdown research shows critics of closing classrooms were correct: The policy took a disastrous toll on low-income and disadvantaged students but did little to stop the spread of COVID-19.

According to Smith’s campaign, his daughter Lindsay was chosen to be in the ad. COVID procedures mandated that the producers use real parents instead of actors for the parents. 

“While the Democrats and their Teachers Union counterparts were desperately fighting to keep schools shuttered, Kevin’s daughter was chosen to appear in an ad for a remote-learning education platform. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the company required actual parents to appear in the ads with their children, and Kevin was proud to support and appear alongside his daughter in that ad,” said Seb Rougemont with Smith’s team.

“As the proud father of three children in Londonderry public schools, Kevin cares deeply about their education and the education of all students across New Hampshire. Is this seriously what the New Hampshire Democrats are spending their time attacking?”

Brainly offers a peer-to-peer learning platform to support students, teachers, and parents. The company claims to have 350 million users which would make it the biggest online learning platform in the world.

Smith is running in a crowded field to challenge Democrat Hassan. While MacPherson and state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley have slammed Smith, Senate President Chuck Morse, and retired Brigadier General Don Bolduc as “B-tier” candidates, recent polling suggests Hassan is a “C-tier” incumbent at best.

Despite her 99 percent name ID, Hassan leads Smith by just one point, 45-44 percent, according to the Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. She is leading Bolduc 47-46 percent, and she is actually losing to Morse 44-46 percent.

The attack also opens the door for Smith and his fellow Republicans to hit back. President Joe Biden is imposing new rules on charter schools that will make it harder for them to accommodate more students. As the liberal New York Times reports:

“Rules proposed by the Education Department to govern a federal grant program for charter schools are drawing bipartisan backlash and angering parents, who say the Biden administration is seeking to stymie schools that have fallen out of favor with many Democrats but maintain strong support among Black and Latino families.”

Asked by NHJournal if she supports the new rules, Hassan declined to respond.

“Hassan’s flacks are attacking an education TV ad while her Joe Biden and her party bosses attack charter schools, keeping communities from getting the quality education and classrooms they need,” Smith said.

‘We Feel Like Tokens’: NH Dem Leadership Tried to Block AAPI Support for Latino Caucus

State Democratic Party leaders tried to silence members of the New Hampshire Democratic Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus who are critical of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas’ right turn on immigration. 

“All of us feel like we’re tokens,” said Shideko Terai, a member of the NH AAPI Caucus. “This is not okay. You can’t use us and abuse us.”

Members of the New Hampshire AAPI Caucus planned last week to send out a statement of support for the New Hampshire Latino Caucus after members of the latter group’s executive team publicly quit in protest of Hassan’s support for a border wall, and Pappas and Hassan’s support for Title 42 immigration restriction.

“I have no patience for the shenanigans,” said Terai, who drafted the statement. “I’m aware of the wheeling and dealing in politics, but when it comes to doing what is right, they have Maggie Hassan’s reelection take precedence over the care of immigrants.”

With polls showing Hassan is headed for a loss in November she has responded by veering right, calling for additional wall construction on the southern border with Mexico. She even went to the border to film campaign videos as part of her effort.

Terai spoke with her caucus leadership, and they decided to draft a statement that leadership from all the state party constituency caucuses could sign to support the Latino Caucus leaders. Instead of unified support, Terai said, leaders of other minority caucuses tried to dissuade her from going forward.

“I was told, ‘We have to be really careful. We need Sen. Hassan’s fundraising,’” Terai recalls.

Another message sent to Terai stated that Free State libertarians will use the dissent in the Democratic Party in an effort to cement their control of the state.

“I am very cognizant that we have a really tough election to run. It will not be easy to win in November despite the fact that we have values that lift all our people up. No, the Free Staters do not lead the way but they are running our state now and if people stay home in November the Free Staters will be running our state for years to come. They are using this as a recruitment tool,” the email stated.

The state party started several constituency caucuses several years ago as a way to reach out to, and support, various groups. Aside from the Latino Caucus, and the AAPI Caucus, there is the African American Caucus, the Stonewall Caucus, the Young Democrats Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, and a Veteran’s Caucus. 

One email Terai saw sent from a prominent Democrat to another constituency caucus leader states the party needs to protect Hassan and that means silencing critics.

“Yes, I am suggesting you hold off (on the statement of support.) I think this matter needs to be addressed directly to Sen. Hassan. It doesn’t mean we don’t deal with the situation, but we should not address it in the same way we would address our opponents. We are all stewards of the Democratic Party, and we need to work through our differences,” the email reads.

Terai said another prominent caucus leader told her the party needs Hassan’s money, and criticism of the senator would have negative consequences for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) Democrats. Terai thinks, based on the flurry of activity set off when she sent the statement to caucus leadership last week, that Hassan’s team pressured the state party to stop the statement.

“That’s my suspicion. But you know, it’s just my suspicion from the flurry of emails, texts, and phone calls that I got,” Terai said.

Hassan’s team did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday, nor did a representative for New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley. Rep. Maria Perez, D-Milford, who was one of the Latino Caucus leaders who resigned from the executive team, was angered when she found out about the effort to silence the other caucuses.

“I’m going to start by saying that we’re very disappointed to learn about some political leaders calling other caucuses and asking them not to sign the letter to @SenatorHassan very disgraceful and anti-democrat from leadership! You know who you are, our silence is not an option!” Perez tweeted.

Perez told NHJournal that Hassan’s team is refusing to meet with her and other members of the Latino community. Perez has been told the senator does not have time to talk. Terai said the party needs to start listening to the minority caucus members before it is too late.

“All of us are gung-ho Democrats, but we’re not gung-ho NHDP, mostly because of the way we have been ignored,” Terai said.

The NH AAPI Caucus statement, released Thursday afternoon, requested Pappas and Hassan to change course.

“We respectfully ask Sen. Hassan and Congressman Pappas to reverse course and revoke their support of Title 42 as stated clearly by the NHDP Latino Caucus leaders. The decision of the signers of their statement to resign from the NHDP Executive Committee is a bold demonstration of staying true to the fight for immigrant justice. Our immigrant brothers and sisters seek safety and refuge and deserve to be welcomed across the southern border into the United States. President Joe Biden wants to end Title 42,” the statement reads.

Aside from Terai, signers included AAPI leaders Cora Quisumbing-King, and Sumathi Madhure; Laconia Democrats Secretary, and Latino Caucus Cahir Carlos Cardona; Delegate-At-Large Jordan Applewhite with the Stonewall Dems; and Delegate-At-Large the Revs. Susan and John Gregory-Davis, co-pastors of Meriden Congregational church.

Hassan Hosts Homeland Security Event at UNH on Flood of Fentanyl Into State

MANCHESTER — Mexican drug cartels, working with Chinese criminal syndicates, are flooding New Hampshire streets with synthetic drugs like methamphetamines and fentanyl.

With more than 104,000 drug overdose deaths nationally last year, Jon DeLena, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Division for the DEA, said Mexico is the key to the drug epidemic.

“It’s the goal of DEA always to try to map these networks and to take these investigations literally from Mexico to Main Street What we’re doing now in all 11 offices throughout Mexico is trying to target the highest level violators within the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación) who ultimately are impacting the East Coast of the United States more than anybody, and right here in New Hampshire as well,” DeLena said.

DeLena was one of several state and federal law enforcement agents who spoke to Democrats Sen. Maggie

Sen. Maggie Hassan Convenes Field Hearing as Chair of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight at UNH on March 14, 2022. (Courtesy)

Hassan, Rep. Chris Pappas, and Rep. Annie Kuster on Monday for a mini-Homeland Security Committee hearing held at the University of New Hampshire Manchester campus. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen did not appear after announcing she tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week’s Democratic retreat in Philadelphia appears to have been a COVID-super-spreader event as several lawmakers contracted the illness.

Drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine are replacing heroin and cocaine as the cartels have learned they can manufacture large quantities of the synthetic drugs without relying on growing cycles and harvesting as they have in decades past, according to Matthew Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge for the HSI Boston Field Office.

Millhollin said tons of drugs are coming through the border from Mexico, and there isn’t the manpower to stop it. He said Congress needs to get serious about going after cartels, and that means going after their money.

“We can’t interdict or seize our way out of this problem. We really have to attack those financial networks, take out the assets that these drug cartels have to really affect them,” Millhollin said. 

Michael Manning, Assistant Director of Field Operations Border Security for CBP’s Boston Field Office, said his agency is currently unable to search every car and truck that legally crosses the border. That’s how most of the drugs are getting into the country. He described it as searching for a needle in a haystack, as CBP can scan two percent of passenger vehicles and 15 percent of commercial vehicles for drugs right now. On top of that limitation, the cartels always seem to be ready with a countermove.

“Our adversaries are continuing to get better, and they have unlimited resources,” Manning said.

DeLena said the cartels want as many people addicted to their drugs as possible, and they do not care what happens to people caught up in the cycle of drug abuse. Those cartels are now targeting children, DeLena said, with methamphetamine pills made to look like Adderall, a medication for ADHD. It is a common drug misused among teens, he said.

“When I saw the amount of those pills that were crossing, throughout New England, but particularly here in New Hampshire, it troubled me more than anything I had seen or experienced in my entire career… It’s this relentless move toward widespread addiction, and that’s exactly how these cartels are trying to achieve that,” said DeLena.

Fentanyl remains the major problem for New England. Fentanyl used to come into the country through Chinese syndicates, but the travel and shipping restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic closed that entry, according to Millhollin. So the Chinese syndicates switched to sending fentanyl to Mexico, and then the cartels began importing the chemical needed to make their own.

DeLena said he was recently at a seized cartel drug lab in the Mexican jungle, littered with chemical packaging with Chinese labels. Hassan said that is all the more reason to close the border.

“I’ve visited the southern border several times as senator, where law enforcement officials discussed with me how drug cartels smuggle drugs into the country,” Hassan said. “Those same drugs end up here in the Granite State – and that is one of many reasons why we must secure our southern border, making sure that our border security and law enforcement personnel have the resources and support that they need.”

While Hassan has voted to get more money for law enforcement, she has repeatedly voted against funding a border wall, and she voted against increased interior enforcement, too. She also opposed the “remain in Mexico” policy that drastically reduced illegal crossings during the Trump administration. President Joe Biden backtracked on “remain in Mexico” and brought the policy back.

The problem will get worse without fast action to push back on the cartels, according to DeLena. 

“Cartels don’t care if Americans die. They are only interested in creating more addicts,” he said.