So why, you might ask does the media never ask Bernie why he’d like to gift illegal aliens in our country with citizenship? His small state has clearly been hit harder than any other state in the nation by Mexican drug cartels who deliver heroin via illegal aliens all the way up to the rural state of Vermont. So why would Bernie want to incentivize more illegals who are bringing dangerous drugs into our country, to cross our borders and receive free benefits and citizenship to boot?
This Vermont resident wonders how Vermont became the heroin capitol of the US?
A few days before I started high school, in 1996, I attended a freshman orientation. I remember sitting at a table in the cafeteria, watching my new classmates file in. One girl caught my eye—she was tall and thin, with flowing strawberry blonde hair and a guy on each side.
Wow, I thought. She was the picture of what I thought a pretty, popular high school girl would be.
A few years later, she was dead. Overdosed on heroin.
Last month, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire annual address to the state’s heroin crisis. Two million dollars worth of heroin is pumped into Vermont each week, he said, and 80 percent of the state’s inmates are in prison for drug crimes. The highways running into Vermont from cities like Boston, New York, Holyoke and Springfield have become heroin pipelines. As Shumlin noted, heroin-related deaths nearly doubled in the last year alone, and the number of people treated for heroin addiction has increased an eye-popping 770 percent since 2000.
The speech seemed to shock the world, sparking national and international headlines. And when the actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death in New York earlier this week brought a new wave of attention to the national epidemic, Vermont’s heroin problem was again noted almost as a curiosity: Who knew pristine Vermont had such a nasty drug problem?
After graduation, I moved back and spent a few years working at WCAX, the state’s biggest news station. It seemed that every night there was another story about some dopehead robbing a Vermont drugstore demanding OxyContin.
The number of heroin addicts seemed to explode after OxyContin was redesigned in 2010, making it more expensive and harder to crush. Since Oxycontin is similar to heroin, heroin became the drug of choice. It’s now easier to find than weed in many parts of Vermont.
I went to rehab myself that year, following a cocaine binge in my home state. The facility was in upstate New York, which has similar demographics—and a similar heroin problem—to Vermont’s. Most of the people there were being treated for heroin addiction, by court order. They all seemed to have the same story: They didn’t start off on heroin. They started on pills.
One man told me he was addicted to OxyContin, but then his dealer claimed he ran out and offered him heroin instead. “You’re pretty much doing heroin anyway,” he said, “and it’s much cheaper than doing Oxys.”
It is cheaper. It’s also highly addictive.
I can’t count how many bodies of classmates and neighbors have been found in parking lots and on living room floors. In addition to the overdoses, there were also suicides—former neighbors and family friends who shot themselves to escape their addiction. And there were those who didn’t get physically hurt but nonetheless destroyed their lives, like the girl who grew up down the road from me who went to federal prison before she turned 20 for heroin trafficking and illegal weapons possession.
Heroin seems to have touched everyone I know in Vermont. Everyone has a relative, friend or neighbor who has been affected. And while the growth among people in my age group—25 to 34—has been nearly exponential, even younger people are using too. I recently talked to Vermont police who told me it’s becoming more and more common for teens to try heroin as their first drug instead of weed or mushrooms.
I wonder how many of those kids have any idea what they’re getting into. I think of my friend who, in her early twenties, tried heroin once “for fun.” She spent the night around the toilet and woke up the next day craving more.
It affects the US job market, tax spending, crime statistics, and now, illegal immigration may be contributing to a dangerous American epidemic: heroin addiction. Opiates may be the most addictive and dangerous available on the black market in the form of prescription medication already, but drug cartels in Mexico are using any means necessary to smuggle drugs across the border, including placing them in the hands of willing and even unwilling illegal immigrants.
Using people to serve drug users
Cartels in Mexico aren’t simply threatening people to do their dirty work. There is a surge in production because there is a surge in demand for the drug, so cartels sought out a ready-made avenue for their product. Helping illegal immigrants cross the border gives them expendable couriers. The help is only offered when the person agrees to carry drugs. While marijuana may have once been the “drug of choice”, the Mexican government is reporting heroin production at record rates. America is the one with the epidemic, however.
Borders wide open
The highest profile cases of drug busts seem to take place at border crossings and ports of entry. Most of the drugs are crossing in mainly isolated deserts in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas now takes place at border crossings. “Coming across the border is the easiest way. You cannot imagine how easy it is to cross the border. You would be shocked at how open our borders are down here,” says Hector Garza, president of the Laredo, Texas chapter of the National Border Patrol Council. “Every single illegal alien that comes into the country goes through the hands of a drug cartel.”
Cartels taking advantage of the dramatic increase in illegal immigration is. The results of these drug tactics are horrifying and tragic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opiate overdoses in the United States have nearly quadrupled from 2002 to 2013. Since 2013, the Department of Homeland Security has seized 75 percent more money, 31 percent more drugs, and 64 percent more weapons, but claims to have seen a 36 percent decrease in illegal immigration attempts, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions. If less are coming over, they’re more dangerous. It’s more likely that the cartels are simply getting smarter and more bold because they’re evading capture.
Heroin Equals Crime
It’s estimated that around half of federal criminal cases in 2013 alone were located around the U.S.-Mexico Border—not according to a political campaign, but from numbers released by the US Department of Justice. Even though half may sound like a fair figure, it really isn’t when one considers how much crime is in the U.S. as a whole. Here comes the interesting part.
A majority of these federal convictions were immigration related—around 38.6 percent of all federal cases—while drug-related crimes were a little over half of that. Other crimes, such as weapons smuggling, made up smaller percentages as well. Drug smugglers could make up around 20 percent of illegal immigrants. Those numbers only include the ones convicted.
Illegal immigration isn’t the cause of the rise in heroin use. Heroin use is being exponentially affected by illegal immigration. Those two statements are not mutually exclusive. While much of the US border lies unsecured, undocumented immigrants will be able to continue to flood the country with illegal drugs thanks to cartels openly operating and in some cases controlling parts of the border.
“When we talk about securing the border, it’s not just about stopping illegal immigration,” says Garza. “It’s also about stopping dangerous drugs from entering our communities and our schools and getting into the hands of kids and affecting family members.”