ATLANTA -- President Donald Trump doubled down on border security Wednesday and took aim at Democrats and the pharmaceutical industry as he vowed to fight the deadly opioid abuse epidemic.
Trump made the remarks at the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta, an annual event that attracts thousands of addiction experts, treatment counselors and law-enforcement officers. He pressed his case for expanding the southwest border wall, though critics say most illegal drugs come through America's ports of entry.
During his address at the downtown Hyatt Regency, Trump invoked his 2015 entrance to the presidential race, when he accused Mexico of sending illegal drugs, crime and rapists to America.
"I made a very strong statement about the border and I was criticized. They said, 'It's not that bad.' Well, let me tell you that statement was peanuts compared to reality," said Trump, who was introduced at the Atlanta summit by first lady Melania Trump. "But we are confronting reality and confronting the grave security and humanitarian crisis on our southern border."
Moments later, the president vented about Democratic opposition to his immigration policies.
"Congress must also act to fix, however, our horrible, obsolete, weak, pathetic immigration laws," he said. "We could solve the entire problem -- I say 45 minutes, but it could go a lot quicker than that, let's bring it down to 15 minutes -- if the Democrats would agree to do certain basic commonsense things with respect to our laws."
Drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017. About two-thirds of those deaths involved opioids. Such overdoses killed 1,007 people across Georgia that same year, up 12% from the previous year. Americans are now more likely to die from opioid overdoses than car wrecks.
Georgia and dozens of its cities and counties are among hundreds of government plaintiffs from across the nation now suing the opioid industry in federal court. Among the defendants is Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and its owners, who agreed this year to pay $270 million as part of a settlement with the state of Oklahoma.
In 2017, the Trump administration declared the opioid abuse epidemic a public health emergency. The following year, the federal government unveiled a campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of opioid abuse, crack down on illegal drug supply chains and help people recover from addiction. The White House says it has secured $6 billion for those efforts.
Trump pointed to how the U.S. Justice Department announced this week its first-ever felony charges against a drug distributor for illegal distribution of opioids. Federal prosecutors have accused Rochester Drug Co-Operative and two of its executives of illegally distributing fentanyl and oxycodone and of conspiracy to defraud the Drug Enforcement Administration.