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It Is Time for America To Declare War on the Drug Cartels

A porous, chaotic southern border creates enormous risk for the American people.  Not only does it result in record numbers of illegal immigrants crossing into our country, but it also means record amounts of illicit drugs, like fentanyl, are trafficked into our country with little consequence for those responsible.  An open border empowers the cartels that continue to produce and smuggle their drugs into our communities that are being torn apart by drug usage.  If we want to address both the immigration crisis and the opioid epidemic that has taken the lives of so many of our people, the best place we can start is by securing our border and going after the cartels.

We should know by this point that the Mexican government is wholly unequal to the task of taking on the cartels, as it has either lost or abdicated control of vast portions of its own country.  Its total lack of sovereignty was made clear last week when four Americans were kidnapped – two of whom were murdered during the kidnapping – by the Gulf Cartel less than a mile beyond our southern border.  Cartels were also likely behind a massive rush of migrants across the U.S. border bridge at El Paso, Texas, this past weekend – a spectacle meant to distract and occupy the resources of Border Patrol agents.

The Biden Administration loves to discuss “root causes” as the drivers of illegal immigration surges, but they identify the wrong factors.  These surges are not driven by climate change; they are driven by unstable governments and transnational cartels that operate as narco-terrorist entities, utilizing migrant surges to profit off human trafficking and drug smuggling.  Addressing “root causes” must start here; that’s why the U.S. government should designate the major drug cartels – the Gulf Cartel (responsible for the recent kidnapping and murders), the Cartel Del Noreste, the Cartel de Sinaloa, and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion to name a few – as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).

Anyone who claims that these cartels do not present such a threat has not done their homework.  Put simply, there are three criteria that must be met in order to designate an entity an FTO: First, the organization is a foreign organization; second, the organization engages in terrorist activity; and third, its activity threatens the national security of the United States or the security of Americans. These cartels are lethal, multi-national organizations that profit off human suffering.  They are responsible for kidnappings, executions, and have assassinated Mexico’s political leaders in broad daylight.  As for their threat to the American people, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died in just the past five years due to the deadly opioids smuggled into the United States every day by the cartels.

In the Trump Administration, we put everything in place to hit the cartels with an FTO designation.  President Trump, however, ultimately made the call not to take that step, choosing instead to prioritize diplomatic cooperation with the Mexican government (who opposed the designation) on stopping illegal immigration and securing our southern border.  We could have done both, though.  We can secure our border and better protect the American people from drug cartels.  That’s why, as Secretary of State, I suggested we use drones to strike the cartels. We know where they are and what they are doing – we shouldn’t wait for the problem to come to our doorstep before we address it.  If the Mexican government cannot or will not take them out, we should to protect the American people.

We should not expect the Biden Administration to recognize this reality.  Administration officials were quick to confirm they had no interest in designating these purveyors of poison as FTOs.  They claimed such a move would not add any power to the federal government it does not already have.  But Team Biden, as usual, is allowing long-held orthodoxies to limit their approach and weaken America.  It is prioritizing diplomatic engagement and cooperation with Mexico over saving American lives.  How exactly is this cooperation and engagement helping America? Where the Trump Administration’s cooperation with Mexico delivered good outcomes, like the Remain in Mexico agreements, Biden’s “cooperation” has been nonexistent.  He ripped up the deals we negotiated with Mexico on Day One – and in doing so, he turned towns along our southern border into humanitarian crisis zones and opened the floodgates for record amounts of fentanyl to pour into our communities.  It’s a primary reason why, during Biden’s first year in office, more Americans died due to opioid overdoses than ever before.

The Administration likes to claim it is doing something about the problem by pointing to the record amounts of fentanyl it has confiscated at the border since taking office, but the Administration is confusing these outcomes with real success. Seizing more fentanyl simply means more is being sent across, just as more apprehensions at our southern border indicate more illegal immigrants are trying to cross. We should commend Border Patrol’s excellent work, but we should also acknowledge reality: The cartels are sending more of their deadly products across our border because they know the Biden Administration is weak and unserious about defending America’s borders.

Fighting the cartels with sanctions and financial warfare is not enough.  Truly confronting these vicious, narco-terrorist organizations demands the full spectrum of American power.  It will require going after the Chinese Communist Party-backed entities that are funneling precursor compounds to cartels, which are necessary to make these deadly drugs – a true “root cause” of the opioid crisis.  To do this, we don’t just need to sanction the cartels more effectively – we need to crush them.  And the only way we can do that is if we treat them like the terrorists they are and hold all those who associate with them accountable.

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