The recent border wall funding fight  has sparked an intense discussion about crime in this country, underscoring the fact that illegal aliens commit crime at a higher rate  than citizens and lawful immigrants do.
President Donald Trump highlighted this issue in his recent State of the Union address, inviting as his special guests three generations of a family  who tragically experienced the murder of loved ones at the hands of illegal aliens.
Since the emergence of our “Stolen Lives Quilts ,” millions of Americans have become aware of the arrests of illegal aliens for murder, sex crimes, DUIs and other criminal, traffic-related offenses — but rarely do we hold those in the drug trade accountable for the death and destruction they have inflicted on Americans.
It’s a fact that many of the deaths caused by our current opioid crisis can be attributed, in large measure, to the activities of illegal aliens in our country, but no one seems to be talking about it.
What started as an epidemic fueled by prescription drugs quickly morphed to one fueled by deadly illegal drugs, as new prescribing guidelines and greater awareness by doctors led to tighter supplies of legal pharmaceuticals.
Many addicts and chronic pain patients, who hopelessly saw no other option, turned to the street for their fix.
Mexican cartels, recognizing a burgeoning business opportunity, organized over cartel lines and flooded our streets with illegal opioids. A leading force in this effort was the Sinaloa cartel, the notorious crime syndicate once led by El Chapo. Heroin, synthetic opioids and counterfeit pills started to flow across the border in droves.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin, has recently turned into a drug of choice for these cartels. Manufactured in weakly regulated and poorly monitored Chinese laboratories, it is then shipped to Mexico and smuggled across the southern border and into the United States.
With profit margins that have proven too big to resist — one kilogram of fentanyl can be purchased for $3,000-$5,000 from China and can generate up to $1.5 million on the street — these cartels have started lacing all kinds of different drugs with the dangerous substance.
It is commonly added to heroin to stretch supplies and provide a stronger “high,” but it has also been found in non-opioid drugs such as cocaine.
Unsuspecting and desperate Americans are dying by the thousands.
Adding to the insidious nature of the problem, the drug is also disguised in counterfeit pills made to look like legitimate pharmaceuticals. Dyed and stamped with recognizable manufacturer marks, these are not legitimate hydrocodone or oxycodone at all — but dangerous combinations of heroin, morphine and fentanyl.
The line between a desired high and a deadly overdose is razor thin. Just 2 milligrams, or 4 grains of salt worth of fentanyl, is enough to kill. Crude narco laboratories are rarely sophisticated enough to get these mixes right, and the consequences are often tragic.
More funding must also be provided for border security. Last year enough fentanyl poured across our borders to kill every single American citizen.
Over 63,000 Americans died  from drug overdoses in 2016, many of them opioid-related. The narco-cartels who created these deadly blends use illegal aliens in smuggling these deadly drugs into the country, making the illegals co-conspirators in each and every one of these opioid deaths.
Federal prosecutors recognize the gravity of the situation and have charged illegal aliens  for their role in causing overdose deaths.
Now is the time for Congress to take charge and use the tools at its disposal to solve this opioid crisis.
Hearings should be scheduled immediately to focus on the role that illegally manufactured and criminally obtained drugs have played in growing America’s addiction crisis. Over the last few years, as seizures of illegal drugs  along the border have increased, so have overdose deaths from illicit drugs.
Clearly, there is a correlation.
More funding must also be provided for border security. Last year enough fentanyl poured across our borders to kill every single American citizen. Our brave Border Patrol agents are simply outnumbered and outmaneuvered by these sophisticated multibillion-dollar criminal enterprises — and our agents desperately need more resources.
Finally, the wall must be built. The statics bear it out. Where fencing and barriers have been constructed, apprehensions of illegal aliens have declines as much as 95 percent.
Crossing open sections of the border will similarly make drug smuggling all the more difficult.
Every day that passes that we fail to fully secure the southern border, hundreds of Americans die from preventable problems caused by illegal immigration.
The country faces crises, both with opioid addiction and the violence coming across our southern border — and Congress needs to act now.
Maria Espinoza is the national director of The Remembrance Project,  which honors and remembers Americans and legal residents who have been killed by illegal aliens. She founded The Remembrance Project after watching a news report in her hometown of Houston about an illegal immigrant who killed a police officer.