GOP lawmakers and state officials are demanding the Biden administration designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, a complicated move even the Trump administration avoided previously. Some critics warn that designating cartels as foreign terror organizations is complicated and comes with a host of unintended consequences.
Democrats hesitant to label Mexican drug cartels as terror groups
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter on April 15 to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris demanding the designation.
“They smuggle narcotics and weapons into the United States to fund their illegal enterprises. They force women and children into human and sex trafficking — enriching themselves on the misery and enslavement of immigrants. They murder innocent people, including women and children,” he wrote.
“These Mexican drug cartels are foreign terrorist organizations, and it is time for the federal government to designate them as such,” he added. ” The sooner they get it done, the sooner America can secure the border and protect Americans from these deadly cartels.”
Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) threw his support behind Abbott, tweeting on April 15, “This is a NO-BRAINER.”
“If Joe Biden won’t recognize these terrorists for what they are, then we will,” he said. “Thank you, @GovAbbott, for your leadership.”
Gooden co-sponsored the Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act, introduced by fellow Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy on April 15.
“To anyone remotely familiar with the brutal tactics and extensive operations that cartels use on both sides of our southern border every single day, there is absolutely no question that they should be described, designated, and treated as terrorists,” Roy said in a statement at the time. “We need to get serious, treat cartels like the terrorists they are, and give law enforcement even more tools to bring them down.”
— Charlotte Cuthbertson (@charlottecuthbo) April 21, 2021
Southern border under siege as cartels get rich off smuggling
But there’s a catch. Calls to label cartels as foreign terror groups would make it unlawful for anyone to provide “material support” to them — and critics say that’s one crucial reason officials have thus far chosen to sidestep the issue altogether.
As the national security blog Lawfare explained, some commentators have argued that designating cartels as foreign terrorist organizations would actually bolster some migrants’ asylum claims as fleeing violence from terrorist organizations would be a more compelling reason than fleeing general criminal violence.
While this may be true as a general principle, the designation of cartels as foreign terrorist organizations would likely have a far more negative impact on the asylum claims of migrants because of their frequent and often coerced interactions with cartels along their journey.
In basic terms, that means immigrants accused of providing assistance to a terrorist organization — in this case the cartels — even if they were coerced or threatened into doing it, could be punished for that scant association.
Mexican State Cops Injured in Cartel Drone Bombing https://t.co/UR9oWh9sTh
— BreitbartTexas (@BreitbartTexas) April 21, 2021