In light of the recent Mexican highway ambush that left nine Americans dead, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21) is calling on lawmakers and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to finally designate Mexican drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) by way of a bill introduced earlier this spring.
“239… That is the number of days it has been since I introduced legislation to designate Mexican drug cartels ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations.’ How many stories do we need to hear about cartels brutally murdering innocent ppl (sic) before we do something about it? Apparently more…” Roy said via Twitter.
Roy’s comments come just days after nine American citizens, three women and six children, living in a Mormon community were murdered near the border state of Sonora by Mexican cartels when their vehicles were assaulted by a barrage of gunfire.
The attack occurred less than 100 miles from the Arizona border.
If Rep. Roy’s sponsored legislation is enacted, the designation of the organized crime units as foreign terrorist organizations would effectively cut off their resources and funding from external sources, prevent members and affiliates from entering the U.S., and allow the Department of the Treasury to freeze their assets.
Expanding on the purpose of the bill, Congressman Roy told The Texan, “The widening influence of these dangerous, ruthless cartels is an ongoing reality, with daily reminders of the lengths to which they will go to gain power.”
He continued by saying the FTO designation specifically “would prevent actual members of these cartels from entering the United States” and “give Treasury Sec. Mnuchin the ability to block cartel assets, helping to undercut their shadow economy and ability to spread their networks.”
In accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Department of State has the authority to designate FTO’s under the conditions that the organization:
- Is a foreign entity,
- Has terrorist intentions and capabilities, and
- Threatens the national security and/or national interests of the United States.
Citing these requirements in an open letter to Secretary Pompeo, Roy with the support of Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), points to the ways cartels maintain operational control of the border by threatening American citizens, Mexican citizens, and migrants through violence, intimidation, and control.
Additionally, Roy and Green point to data from the United Nations Security Council that recognizes an international connection between terrorism and drug trafficking.
In Texas, specifically, drug trafficking has notable societal implications as the Rio Grande Valley sector is classified by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as the busiest sector, ranking first among cocaine and marijuana seizures across the nation.
Specific cartels listed in the bill for FTO designation include the Reynosa/Los Metros faction of the Gulf Cartel, the Cartel Del Noreste faction of Los Zetas, and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel offshoot of the Sinaloa Cartel.
When asked by The Texan about plans for garnering support for the bill, Roy said, “My team and I are currently working on whipping more support for the bill. Our hope is that we come together to combat cartels and work to end the crisis on our southern border.”
“Beheadings on camera. Human beings dissolved in sulfuric acid. Bodies hacked to pieces and strewn along the highway. Innocent people left for dead in the street. I am not describing ISIS or al-Qaeda, but rather what is happening across many portions of our shared border,” Roy reiterated in an op-ed illustrating numerous ways cartels are an organized and growing security threat.
Before the Senate on Tuesday, Undersecretary of Homeland Security David Glawe echoed similar sentiments to Rep. Roy’s, calling the violence and brutality of this week’s cartel highway ambush “as barbaric and gruesome as any terrorist organization we see around the globe.”
Similarly, Rep. Green advocated his support for the measure saying, “We must follow up with this new designation that will empower our law enforcement agents to fight the cartels. Adding them to the FTO is applauded by the experts and those watching our southern border closely.”
Congressman Randy Weber (R-TX-14) cosponsored the bill on Thursday.
Roy represents the 21st congressional district encompassing vast swaths of the Texas Hill Country, parts of Austin, and down into the suburbs of San Antonio.
In 2020, Rep. Roy will likely face Democratic challenger and former State Senator Wendy Davis in what is expected to be a competitive election.
The Texan reached out to representatives of Davis regarding her stance on Rep. Roy’s legislation.
Neither Davis nor anyone on her team responded.
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Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.