West Virginia is feeling the worst effects of illicit fentanyl flowing across America’s southern border, according to state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Fentanyl is “ravaging our state,” Morrisey says, noting that is “in part because West Virginia for many decades really has had the highest drug-overdose death rate in the nation.” And now, the Mountain State has “the highest fentanyl death rate in America.”
Working to secure the border will save lives in West Virginia, he says.
Morrisey joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the Biden administration’s failure to secure America’s border and the growing concerns over border security given the war between Israel and Hamas.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure today to welcome back to “The Daily Signal Podcast” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Attorney General, thank you so much for being with us today.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey: Oh, it’s great to be with you today. Thanks so much.
Allen: Well, we have a lot to talk about and I want to start by discussing an issue that I know is affecting West Virginia, it’s affecting all Americans, and that’s the crisis at our southern border.
Of course, over the weekend on Saturday, we learned that Customs and Border Protection has encountered over 3.2 million illegal aliens on America’s borders and ports of entry over the past fiscal year.
And so many Americans, given this situation of what is happening in Israel right now, are really concerned about who are the people who are coming to our borders, who are trying to get into America. What do we know about the illegal aliens who are trying to enter our country right now?
Morrisey: Well, unfortunately, we don’t know nearly enough. What we do know is that the Biden administration has made the situation measurably worse over the years because they put a sign at the border, every border, “Come. Welcome. Need not go through security.” Obviously, a little exaggeration of this. But their policies on border security have really harmed our country tremendously.
And if you think about it, now all of a sudden when you start to hear a little bit more about the Biden administration finally coming out and saying that they want to put resources on the border when the last few years they’ve done literally nothing to try to address the core needs that we have. It’s disconcerting.
And sometimes the people that are coming in through the border, then they’re scheduled to go into the court system, they might get lost for a year or two. I mean, this whole catch and release concept is terrible because think about how many people ultimately that stay in our country illegally as a result.
So I think this has been a huge problem from Day One with the Biden administration. And obviously, when people are seeing what’s going on in Israel—it’s a terrible, terrible thing right now. What Hamas did was just unforgivable. And we know that Israel has the right to step up and defend itself.
But Americans are looking at the border a little bit the same way and say anyone can just walk in the door, they can cart tons of drugs in. West Virginia, we feel the impact of the border crisis through the illicit fentanyl that floods into our state and slaughtering so many people.
So I’m very worried about it. I think most Americans are, and they do see some of the parallels between the two.
Allen: Like you mentioned, many Americans are looking at our border now through a little bit of a different lens because of what is happening in Israel. You wrote on Twitter earlier this month that as Americans, we have this threat of terrorists potentially entering America through our border. Do we know if terrorists in the past have entered America through the border?
Morrisey: Well, we know that there are people that are criminals that have come through, they’ve slid into our country. That’s a huge problem.
And the reality is that whatever the numbers may be, we know that what this administration is doing is not adequate. We can feel the effect of illicit fentanyl. We know about the human trafficking that comes into the country as well. And I know that that border in Arizona and Texas is very porous. It’s a huge, huge problem in part because of the federal government’s failures to take act.
So, it’s hard to pinpoint every single specific individual or person that’s come through and committed a crime. But we do know for a fact that a number of the people coming across have in fact committed many violations of law.
Obviously, it’d be great if we could isolate and know exactly what percentage of that looks like. But the truth is that even when we’re talking about if one murderer, if one rapist comes across the line unlawfully, that’s one too many.
Allen: Let’s get into how West Virginia specifically is being affected by the current border situation. You mentioned fentanyl. What does that look like in West Virginia, maybe compared to other states? How are you-all dealing with a fentanyl crisis?
Morrisey: Fentanyl, unfortunately, is hitting West Virginia very, very hard. It’s ravaging our state. In part because West Virginia for many decades really has had the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.
So you had a huge pool of people who are originally addicted to these legal pain pills, and a number of these people then moved on to other drugs, heroin or cocaine or meth and other products. And then along comes fentanyl.
And fentanyl is incredibly inexpensive. The Chinese have set this up to be all this illicit product comes in, it floods down in Mexico, goes across the border into the U.S. And then West Virginia has now of the highest fentanyl death rate in America. And that’s just terrible on many, many levels.
So this has been a huge problem from Day One in our state, and that’s why I put time into the border problem because West Virginians feel the impact of it. And I try to push back.
I’ve called for fentanyl to be listed as a weapon of mass destruction for a long time because if you just look at the death rates in our state and across the country, I know it’s been cited a lot, but individuals between the ages of 18 and 45, I believe it’s the highest death rate in the nation. Fentanyl. That’s more than heart attacks, that’s more than car accidents, that’s more than many other things. That’s something that should cause America to wake up and say, “No more. We have to stop it.”
But this Biden administration has not been doing its job, and I think that’s probably one of the most unforgivable offenses of this administration, that they’re letting another generation fall prey to senseless death.
Allen: Now, some in the media, they might push back and say, “Well, but do we really know that that fentanyl is coming across the border and can we draw that direct comparison?” What is your response to that?
Morrisey: Well, I think that people who try not to cover this topic are just covering for the Biden administration, and we see that with some of the media that are out there, and it’s just reprehensible on every level.
Look, I’m on the ground and I talk to our law enforcement partners every single day, and whether you’re talking to a sheriff or a prosecutor or those in law enforcement in our state, we see the fentanyl. And what we’ve seen is as follows, that we know that there were a lot of people prior to fentanyl becoming kind of a real serious problem here who are broadly addicted by the legal pain pills.
So there were a lot of us that stood up and focused and pushed back pretty hard against that, had actually a lot of success, not just in holding some of the pharmaceutical counties responsible and accountable for their actions. But we’re now setting up a structure to be able to better deal with some of the challenges of addiction.
But meanwhile, if you don’t address the other aspects of it, and that is the move from legal pain pills to other illicit products, that’s a real issue. And so people started to migrate.
And fentanyl, it’s just a question of cost. There’s such a massive amount of supply in the system right now, it’s dirt cheap, and so it’s easy. But we know there is a lot of fentanyl. And then there are other products and fentanyl-related issues coming up and things that are 10 times, 50 times more potent than fentanyl that are coming down the pike as well.
So I know it exists as the chief legal officer of West Virginia and it’s a very serious problem. I just wish we could get more attention in the media. I applaud you for talking about it today. It’s one of my biggest concerns here in West Virginia.
Allen: It’s really concerning. It’s something that we have to be focused on because you’re right, it’s every day taking the lives of the innocent.
Morrisey: And I would add one other point. Last year, was actually a little less than a year ago, in an effort to draw more attention to this terrible plague on our house, I met with the eight families who had victims of fentanyl. And these are some of the saddest stories of people that no one thought that they were actually getting a death sentence when they might’ve taken some drug. And these people have stories that deserve to be heard.
Everywhere across West Virginia and America, there are people that are dying, being slaughtered because they literally have no idea that fentanyl could be laced into practically anything. It’s so cheap and people put it on. And we’ve talked about it being a problem with respect to the vaping that’s going on. If you put a little bit of fentanyl in the mix there, you can have a terrible effect on kids.
And so we try to get out and educate a lot of people, but the face of the victims is really what matters. And that’s why I wish more people would focus on their plight. Because one death is too many and we’re seeing so many people, a whole generation, fall prey to this terrible death.
Allen: Well, given the situation at the border and with growing concerns over things like fentanyl, we’ve seen that the Biden administration has just introduced this very, very large spending package. Within it is $14 billion for funding for issues related to the border.
What do we know specifically about what that $14 billion that the Biden administration is saying should be spent on border-related issues would actually go toward and does it actually address things like the fentanyl crisis?
Morrisey: Well, what I’m worried about—first of all, it’s a little bit too little, too late, right? They ignored this problem for so long, and now America’s heartland is screaming out in agony because the Biden administration was an utter failure on this topic.
This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. One of the things you have to do as commander in chief is you have to protect the homeland, and [President Joe] Biden hasn’t done that. And I actually would argue it’s one of the most serious failures he’s had as president.
So one of the things we know is that early on there was an effort first by President [Donald] Trump and by other Republicans in Congress to build a border wall. Why do you want to build a border wall? Well, obstacles work. If you actually try to interfere in the progress of people that are trying to come into a particular territory, if you block it with a wall or other barriers, it’s going to limit the number of people that come through. That’s a real positive thing President Trump tried to initiate certainly, and I applaud President Trump for that.
But obviously, Biden immediately went the opposite direction. And I think you saw some of the Democrats have just a knee-jerk reaction against the wall and against effective barriers. And now you’re starting to see some of that turnaround because I think they know that even for some people who would like to get as many undocumented aliens coming as possible, ultimately, maybe to vote, and they’re doing a lot of bad things, that this is just a bridge too far.
So, you’re seeing some resources, but I don’t think that this is focused on building the border wall, and I think I worry that they’re not making fundamental policy changes to what ails the system.
When you have catch and release, when you let people come in unfettered, and ultimately, you have to trust that they’re somehow going to make their court appearance in a year—I don’t think that’s the right system.
So we have too many people come in. America should be the place where legal immigration prospers based upon following the law. But then when you have people just constantly come in and they’re breaking the law to get here, that’s a big issue and it’s gone in the wrong direction under Biden.
Allen: Attorney General, while we have you here, I do want to take a second just to talk a little further about the situation that we see right now in Israel. And speaking of funding, that $14 billion that the Biden administration says that they want to spend on border security-related issues, within that same package, the larger package is a $105 billion spending package with over $61 billion specifically in aid for Ukraine and then just over $13 billion in aid for Israel. Why do you think that the Biden administration is tying aid for Israel in a package that also includes aid for Ukraine?
Morrisey: Well, look, I think they know that aid for Ukraine, given what we’ve seen, is not proven to be very popular. And so they’re trying to link it together and bootstrap this. I think that people know that Israel is our ally and people want to step up and provide some help to our ally who was just aggressively, wrongfully just subject to violent terroristic attacks, and now they have to defend their homeland. And I think people, most Americans understand that and applaud that. And I think that America wants to stand behind its ally. All that’s good.
The problem is, when you link it all together, you’re then exposing a huge divide among our country about what should happen with those resources and the lack of accountability of that. Because that seems like an endless pit of money that’s being shipped over there and I think that’s why they’re tying in it.
Look, this is just another example, though, about how Washington fails in what it does. Rather than consider bills individually on their own merits, they always feel that they have to bring everything together into one massive porky bill, a huge omnibus bill that funds the entirety of government. Why? Because they want to put a gun to your head. Either you vote for the bill or it all comes down, including some of the good things that you may like, right?
In any bill, there are probably going to be some things that all Americans can agree on and some things you disagree on. So they bundle it all together and then ultimately they try to get their votes that way.
Now, that’s a very bad way of running a government, and you see that when you as a Congress fail to move appropriations bills singularly. You should be able to move these 13 appropriations bills on their own based upon the agencies they fund. They never do it. They failed at that for years.
Quite frankly, one of the reasons why I’m running for governor of the state of West Virginia is because not only am I going to help West Virginia really soar in the economic rankings, I think the key to stopping all the swamp-like activity going on in D.C. is for the states to ban together. So you have governors, you have attorneys general, treasurers, state agencies all come together and be a very loud voice against the federal leviathan, the endless money pit, the uncontrolled regulatory power.
That’s why I think states have to serve, is that effective checking mechanism. And that’s why I think they should separate it. Governors, attorneys general, and others should say, “Get your act together, move bills individually. And I know it’s harder, but Congress, do your darn job and let’s have a functional government for a change.”
But I’m happy to report that the states are going to be coming. And after I get elected as governor, people are going to know we’re going to have a really loud voice against all this nonsense. We need a government that’s run the right way. And what’s happening in Washington right now is wildly dysfunctional and in desperate need of a change.
Allen: West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, we so appreciate your time today. We’ve covered a lot of ground. There’s a lot going on in Washington, D.C. So appreciate you weighing in, Attorney General.
Morrisey: Hey, thank you so much.
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