Two Inland Empire congressmen Tuesday announced the formation of a caucus that will focus on strengthening efforts to halt the influx of fentanyl at the border with Mexico, where “unprecedented” quantities of the deadly synthetic opioid are flowing into the country.

“We have lost operational control of our nation’s borders,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Temecula, said. “The unprecedented and deadly fentanyl crisis is the net result. This has everything to do with the open border policies President Biden imposed on day one of his term that has allowed an unprecedented supply of this drug to enter the homeland and devastate our families and communities.”

Issa was joined at the “Fentanyl Roundtable,” held in Temecula, by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, county Sheriff Chad Bianco and Matt Capelouto, founder of the Temecula-based Fentanyl Awareness Coalition.

“At the roundtable, we heard from people on the front lines of the fentanyl crisis,” Calvert said. “We also heard from one of the far-too-many families in America who have lost a loved one due to fentanyl.”

Calvert said the gathering was intended to highlight the reasons for establishing the new bipartisan House of Representatives’ Fentanyl Caucus.

“In the weeks and months ahead, the Fentanyl Caucus will discuss and advocate for policies that address this deadly crisis,” the congressman said. “We must send a message to international drug cartels and their Chinese suppliers that we will not accept the death and devastation their drugs are bringing to our communities.”

Capelouto, who lost his 20-year-old daughter Alexandra to fentanyl poisoning in December 2019, called for federal action in January to interdict fentanyl inflows to the United States.

“These drugs, made from sources in China, are used (like) a chemical weapon attack,” he said at the time. “My daughter didn’t want to die. She took one pill. Everybody in the supply chain needs to be held accountable.”

Bianco and Hestrin both said in January that fentanyl poisonings were accelerating at a frightening rate countywide, with a 250-fold increase from 2016 to 2021.

“It’s all about profit and greed,” Hestrin said, referring to Mexican drug cartels and their supply lines across Southern California and elsewhere in the U.S. “We’re not getting help at our southern border. We’re overwhelmed.”

Fentanyl is known to be 80-100 times more potent than morphine and is a popular additive, mixed into many types of narcotics and pharmaceuticals, often without the knowledge of recipients. In the case of Capelouto’s daughter, she believed she was taking a painkiller. Her alleged supplier, Brandon Michael McDowell, is federally charged with distributing fentanyl resulting in death. He’s awaiting trial.

“We’ve lost so many lives to fentanyl,” Issa said. “So many families will never be the same. If we don’t win the fentanyl fight, we’re going to lose this community. Today we say enough. This is the conversation that’s needed now to find answers and save lives.”

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