PHARR, Texas – One pill can kill.
That's the message the Drug Enforcement Administration is spreading to bring awareness to the rise in fentanyl overdoses.
Thousands of people cross between the U.S. and Mexico daily at the Pharr International Bridge in Texas. That's also where Customs and Border Protection seized $1.2 million worth of cocaine and fentanyl on Oct. 1 — hardly a dent in the quantity of drugs making their way across the border and eventually to cities and states nationwide.
"Just the amount of fentanyl just apprehended by the Texas Department of Public Safety just this year is more than enough to kill every man, woman and child in the states of Texas, California and New York," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Most times fentanyl, a synthetic opioid often in the form of counterfeit pills, is manufactured in Mexico. Cartels illegally bring them across the border to bigger cities like San Antonio and from there the pills go across the country.
"It’s just like making, to really simplify it, chocolate chip cookies," said Special Agent Dante Sorianello, a 35-year veteran with the DEA works in the San Antonio District. "Sometimes one cookie, if you’re making it at home, gets more chips in it than the other. If you’re doing that with a potentially fatal poisonous substance, if you make a hot pill, that will kill somebody."
He said they’re seeing a record amount of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Del Rio and Eagle Pass, Texas.
"It used to be a kilo here, 10 kilos there. We’re seizing 100 kilos, 40 kilos, 50 kilos," Sorianello said. "We have not been faced with the lethality of fentanyl in the streets right now."
During a recent surge in illegal immigration, Border Patrol agents were relocated to process the migrants. This led to the closing of inspection checkpoints, allowing drug traffickers to go undetected.
"If the checkpoint is closed, now you get to unload all the stash houses with humans and all the stash houses with drugs and send them in through our Texas highways -- I-35, I-20, all the way through," said retired Special Agent Victor Avila with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Avila said more than 90,000 people have died so far this year from fentanyl overdoses.
"I can get you a tip of a pen, and that small amount would kill hundreds of people," Avila said. "I don’t call those overdoses. I call those poisonings. And I attribute those murders to the cartel."