Twenty-one attorneys general want Biden to designate Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations

(The Center Square) – Five months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott designated two Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and called on President Joe Biden to do the same, 21 attorneys general also called on the president to do so.

The attorneys general sent a letter to the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week after the president’s State of the Union address, in which he didn’t designate illicit fentanyl as a Weapon of Mass Destruction or designate the cartels as FTOs, requests previously made by attorneys general and Gov. Abbott.

Last September, Abbott issued an executive order designating the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and any similarly situated Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations” under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. He also requested the president do likewise, the second time he’s made the request since April 2021. In his Sept. 21, 2022 letter, Abbott said since then, “There was no action, no response.”

“But if you are ready to make Americans safer,” he wrote the president, “it will be better late than never. As the number of American deaths continues to rise due to the cartels’ terrorist behavior, now is the time to act. We do not have more time to waste.”

Still receiving no response, he’s said, within one year of Biden’s presidency, fentanyl had killed nearly 20 times more people than those killed in terrorist attacks over decades.

Through Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, Texas law enforcement officers have seized over 360 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than everyone in the U.S. Florida law enforcement officers in just a few months last year also seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in the state. Law enforcement officers in other states are seizing record amounts.

While Biden mentioned last week that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had seized over 28,000 pounds of fentanyl, he didn’t mention they’ve done so since February 2021 or that in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, they’d seized enough fentanyl to kill nearly 5 billion people. Two milligrams, roughly the weight of a mosquito, is considered a lethal dose.

The attorneys general echoed Abbott’s concerns in their letter, pointing to the fentanyl crisis being facilitated by Mexican cartels manufacturing fentanyl and trafficking it, it’s precursors and other drugs laced with it through the southern border. They also point to the ruthless violence being committed by Mexican cartels on both sides of the border.

Mexican cartels are “assassinating rivals and government officials, ambushing, and killing Americans at the border, and engaging in an armed insurgency against the Mexican government,” the AGs write. “This dangerous terrorist activity occurring at our border will not abate unless we escalate our response.”

“The Mexican drug cartels threaten our national security beyond the sale of these deadly drugs,” they continue. “Over the past decade, Mexican drug cartels have developed well-organized armed forces to protect their reprehensible trade from rivals and from the Mexican government. The existence of such forces just across our southwestern land border, and the Mexican government’s inability to control them, pose a threat to our national security far greater than a typical drug-trafficking enterprise. That threat is made greater still by the known links between the Mexican drug cartels and [FTOs] like Hezbollah who already intend to do us harm. Our national security requires the federal government to disrupt this collaboration between cartels and terrorist groups.”

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares led a coalition of 21 attorneys general representing the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Miyares last year joined a coalition of 18 AGs led by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody calling on Biden to designate fentanyl as a WMD, about which he said, “To date, no action has been taken.”

In a separate statement, AG Moody said, “It’s evident that the Mexican drug cartels are terrorist organizations,” referring to them “trafficking deadly fentanyl directly across the border … killing tens of thousands of Americans,” and “fueling extreme violence at the southwest border and beyond.”

“Sadly, the Biden administration has only emboldened the cartels to commit even more crimes on both sides of the border,” she said, citing a story published by The Center Square, about a recent “cartel-style execution [that] occurred in California that reportedly involved a Mexican drug cartel.”

She’s also called on the president to hold Mexico and China accountable for their role in creating the fentanyl crisis and has yet to hear back.

The AGs argue the cartels’ “recent embrace of extreme violence further justifies their designation as an FTO.” Under 8 US Code, Section 1189, the Secretary of State may designate an organization as an FTO, which gives state and federal agencies the authority to freeze assets, deny entry to cartel members and pursue stricter punishments.

Instead, President Biden said his plan to address the fentanyl crisis involved having “more drug detection machines,” implementing greater inspection of cargo to “stop pills and powder [coming in through] the border,” “working with couriers, like FedEx, to inspect more packages for drugs,” and implementing “strong penalties to crack down on fentanyl trafficking.”

In response, Texas lawmakers blasted his plan, and Gov. Abbott said, “One again, President Biden proved Texas leads, and Washington follows.”

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