What is the Border Patrol Chief Trying to Tell Us?

A coded cry for help

By Andrew R. Arthur on March 8, 2023

When I started my first stint on Capitol Hill in 2001, information gathering required reading numerous papers, receiving a couple of briefings, and taking tens of calls from those within the executive branch, daily. Now, thanks to Twitter, even public officials can share their thoughts in real time. One of the officials is Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, and his March 3 end-of-the-week tweet gave me plenty to consider. It appears that, like a famous P.O.W., the chief is sending a coded message to the outside world.

The Tweet. Here is Chief Ortiz’s March 3, end-of-the-week roundup tweet:

There’s a lot to unpack there, and much of it bucks the administration’s — and media’s — prevailing narrative.

Apprehensions. As the chief reports, last week agents apprehended 35,528 illegal migrants. Although he does not state as much directly, those apprehensions were likely mainly at the Southwest border.

Assuming that’s become the norm, it means that Border Patrol is on track to make about 140,000 apprehensions at the Southwest border in February — which would be an increase over the 128,000-plus in January the president crowed about in his State of the Union address.

It also would suggest that the White House’s recently announced “New Border Enforcement Actions” will provide, at best, a short-lived reprieve for overwhelmed agents at the Southwest border — as I predicted on January 27.

I will wait until the February numbers come out (likely soon) before I go any further out on this limb, but Ortiz’s numbers are certainly intriguing.

Got-Aways. The most compelling figure in that tweet is the number of “known got-aways”, aliens detected entering illegally but who successfully evaded agents to make it home-free into the interior.

If there were 12,388 of them in the week ended March 3, and if that’s an average week, it means that we can expect the U.S. population to grow by more than 640,000 illegal migrants in the coming year — not counting the illegal migrants that CBP will “encounter” at the Southwest border and release.

Looking at just the potential got-away numbers, however, 640,000-plus individuals is larger than the populations of Memphis, Detroit, Baltimore, or New Orleans. Those aren’t aliens whom the American people have chosen to join them — those are aliens who have simply kicked in the rickety backdoor of the United States and come on in.

We know that, under the Biden administration, 1.2 million got-aways had already entered and resettled here as of January 22, but we only know that because federal officials confirmed that figure to Fox News. Chief Ortiz has apparently decided to cut out the middleman, which in this case is that outlet’s Bill Melugin.

If I were Melugin, however, I wouldn’t be nervous to be put out of a job. He does plenty of other ground reporting from the border that most of the media can’t trouble themselves with, either because they don’t want to move to the Rio Grande Valley or don’t like getting dirty or mucking through riversides (the Southwest border is the only place I’ve ever been that’s both dusty and muddy).

If you add those 1.2 million old got-aways to more than 640,000 new got-aways, however, you get to more than 1.8 million new denizens in the Republic, a figure that exceeds the number of residents in all but the four largest U.S. cities (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston). It’s also larger than the populations in 11 states, again not counting about 1.9 million border migrants DHS has released.

Municipal officials set tax rates to pay for things like schools, hospitals and ambulance services, fire departments, police, garbage collection, and sewage based on their current and projected populations, but an incalculable influx of foreign nationals makes forecasts difficult if not impossible. So, if you get your next tax bill and it’s a lot larger than you expected, I know at least one reason why.

Fentanyl. As Chief Ortiz reveals, Border Patrol seized 299 pounds of fentanyl last week, and that’s a problem in and of itself.

Two milligrams of fentanyl can be a deadly dose (regular users can handle larger amounts), which means that in one week alone, Border Patrol agents seized enough of the stuff to kill 67,812,004 Americans.

I credit myself with first drawing that “border seizures of fentanyl by weight” and “American deaths” analogy in congressional testimony in February 2018 (I specifically remember it because committee staff called me and asked if my astronomical calculations were correct), but it remains the best metric for assessing those seizures.

Consider it this way, instead, however. The U.S. population stands at just short of 334.5 million, according to the Census Bureau. If Border Patrol seized 299 pounds of fentanyl last week, that’s enough to provide a 2 mg dose to 9.687 million Americans (2.9 percent of the populace) per day this week, not counting all the fentanyl that flowed undetected through the ports.

Drug cartels are staffed by evil, vicious, heartless bastards, but those evil, vicious, heartless bastards are also extremely savvy businessmen. Like any good businessman with a Harvard MBA and an alphabet soup of accreditations, they both want to provide the market with their products, and grow that market.

In much the same way that Coca-Cola isn’t going to produce 200 million units of Coke if Americans only want 150 million units, cartels aren’t interested in producing and moving unusable product or flooding the market. In this context, that means that about one out of every 33 Americans wants illicit fentanyl.

Of course, Coca-Cola wants to sell even more Coke, and thus markets it in a way that grows its share. That’s why “Coca-Cola” is the fifth most recognizable brand name in the world, and why your image of Santa Claus as a corpulent jolly old elf dressed in the company’s logo colors of red and white is largely based on Haddon Sundblom’s 1931 advertisements for the company (although Coca-Cola denies the color choice officially).

People only want to drink so much of any beverage that’s not water, however, so you can find recipes for Coca-Cola tacos on the company’s website, and for burgers, wings, chicken, cake, and strawberries and cream elsewhere. And of course, bars regularly push “Cuba Libres” (rum and coke), Brandy Cola, and, of course, many fraternity boys’ go-to, “Jack and Coke” (Coke and Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey). Some of that is native inventiveness, but a lot is marketing.

In the fentanyl context, mid-level distributors in the United States know that adding the synthetic opioid to other drugs (including marijuana) will boost their potency, and potency is what keeps junkies coming back for more, especially since fentanyl is more addictive than other narcotics.

And, if those mid-level distributors can’t get their hands on popular prescription medications to sell illicitly (such as Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, and Xanax, to name a few), they put highly addictive fentanyl into the mix.

The presence of large and growing numbers of street-drug addicted Americans is a societal problem in and of itself, but the bigger issue is that, according to the DEA, “of the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills analyzed in 2022, six out of ten now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl”.

Which brings me to Rebecca Kiessling of Rochester Hills, Mich., who lost two sons (Kyler, then aged 18, and Caleb, who was 20) to fentanyl poisoning on July 29, 2020. She appeared as a witness at a recent House Homeland Security hearing captioned “Every State is a Border State: Examining Secretary Mayorkas’ Border Crisis”.

According to Kiessling, Caleb and Kyler thought they were taking fake Percocet, but it was really a lot of fentanyl (Kyler received five times the lethal dose).

Of course, they died before Joe Biden became president and named Alejandro Mayorkas as DHS secretary, a point on which the Los Angeles Times pounced in discussing that hearing. In a March 5 editorial captioned, “The GOP’s Mayorkas impeachment sideshow”, the board wrote:

Among the cast of characters testifying Tuesday was a Michigan mom who spoke about the fentanyl-related deaths of her two sons. Rebecca Kiessling’s story was compelling, and one with which many parents can sympathize. Except that her sons died in July 2020 during the Trump administration and several months before President Biden appointed Mayorkas.

I’ve already hurled one off-color epithet, and don’t plan on doing it again, but I question the couth of the board in lumping a grieving mother of two in with other witnesses and describing them collectively as a “cast of characters”.

That said, perhaps the board should read her testimony, in which she stated:

The year Caleb was born — 2000, there were approximately 20,000 drug-related deaths in the U.S. The year they died — 2020, there were over 100,000. And according to the CDC, “in 2021, 106,699 drug overdose deaths occurred”.

. .

China and the Mexican cartels are not trying to create drug addicts — they are trying and succeeding at killing off our people — primarily young men. If we were in a traditional war with over 100,000 dying each year from guns and bombs, our citizenry would be demanding that Congress and the President put an end to the war. But because too many people see children like Caleb and Kyler as “drug addicts”, ending this war is not made the top mission.

The first line in the second paragraph is conclusory, and if the Times’ editorial board intended to inform the popular discourse it could have analyzed those points, but in any event, the first paragraph is so well-supported as to not require citation, and the last two lines in the second paragraph raise a critical point — drugs are flowing over an increasingly undefended border and silently killing Americans, and the administration is doing nothing to prevent it.

Well, almost nothing, because as Chief Ortiz’ tweet shows, Border Patrol agents are trying.

But they’re fighting with one arm tied behind their collective back by an administration more concerned about providing “safe, orderly and legal pathways” for illegal migrants to apply for asylum than complying with the congressional mandate for Mayorkas to “achieve and maintain operational control of” the Southwest border.

Jeremiah Denton. In 1965, U.S. Navy A-6 pilot (and later senator from Alabama), Commander Jeremiah Denton, was shot down over North Vietnam, and thereafter placed into solitary confinement and brutalized by his captors.

In May 1966, the Communist North Vietnamese government arranged for Denton to be interviewed by a Japanese reporter as part of its propaganda efforts. As the National Archives explains:

Asked about his views on the actions of the U.S. Government, he strongly affirmed his government’s position, in defiance of his captors’ instructions; he prepared himself for a torture session that was sure to follow.

While speaking on camera, he blinked in Morse code the word “T-O-R-T-U-R-E.” Eventually, the videotape was widely circulated and reviewed by U.S. Naval Intelligence. Denton’s one-word report, delivered in Morse code, was the first clear confirmation received by U.S. Intelligence that American POWs were, in fact, being tortured.

Chief Ortiz’ struggles pale in comparison to Denton’s, and unlike the Navy flier, the chief has voluntarily accepted his plight. Following the chief’s Twitter feed, however, suggests that, like the P.O.W., he too is trying to send a coded message to the outside world — that Border Patrol agents “continue to stay focused on the mission”, but are fighting a losing battle, thanks to the Biden administration. Perhaps the editorial board at the L.A. Times could pay attention.