US Border Patrol make major fentanyl bust -- with technology, not wall

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Los Angeles (AFP)

The US Customs and Border Patrol announced Thursday they had seized 115 kilograms (254 pounds) of deadly fentanyl, one of the largest-ever seizures of a drug blamed for tens of thousands of overdose deaths annually in the country.

The fentanyl, along with 179 kgs of methamphetamine, was discovered in a tractor-trailer loaded with produce crossing into the United States from Mexico at the official Nogales port crossing, said Michael Humphries, the port director.

The bust highlighted the debate in Washington over whether billions of dollars should be spent on a border wall or more technology to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United States.

Humphries said it was "non-intrusive" inspection -- generally huge x-ray machines -- that discovered secret compartments in the trailer. Then on further inspection, CBP dogs sniffed out the drugs.

"This represents the largest fentanyl seizure in CBP history," Humphries said.

It also appeared to be the largest-ever fentanyl bust by any US agency, though officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration could not immediately confirm that.

A synthetic opioid, fentanyl is 80-100 times stronger than morphine and, depending on the purity, a quarter-milligram is enough to kill a person, according to Humphries.

Fentanyl busts have increased as the drug is increasingly used by addicts to substitute for more expensive heroin and prescription opioids.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, fentanyl seizures at the southern border have more than doubled in the past year.

The bust came as President Donald Trump has demanded Congress give him $5.7 billion to build walls along the US-Mexico border to prevent the entry of both illegal immigrants and dangerous narcotics.

Democrats have rejected Trump's demands, saying the wall would be ineffective and that most drugs come through the official port, necessitating more technology to screen vehicles.