The attorneys general for 21 states sent a letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday to ask the administration to declare Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
The officials noted drug overdoses have killed more than 100,000 Americans in the past year, and almost two-thirds of them were related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. They cited the Drug Enforcement Administration in saying that Mexican drug cartels are importing raw materials from China, using them to produce opioids at a low cost and illegally transporting those illicit drugs into the United States.
But the Republican attorneys general said the cartels threaten U.S. national security beyond the drugs themselves, having created armed forces to protect their trade from rival cartels and 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,” they said.
The signers, led by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R), said the cartels also have connections to foreign terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group.
They said cartels are assassinating government officials and rivals, killing Americans at the southern border and taking part in an armed insurgency against the Mexican government.
They said said designating these groups as terrorist organizations will grant state and federal law enforcement agencies increased authority to freeze cartel assets, deny members entry to the United States and give prosecutors the ability to press for tougher punishments against those supporting the cartels.
Current efforts to push back against the spread of narcotics are insufficient, they argued.
“The cartels’ intense violence goes far beyond mere resistance to interference with their drug trafficking and now encompasses a general effort to intimidate rivals and expand their influence,” they said. “This violence, which necessarily involves using firearms and explosives to kill security forces, plainly constitutes terrorist activity.”
The letter comes after Biden noted in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that authorities have seized more than 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in the past several months. He called on Congress to start a “major surge” to prevent the production, sale and trafficking of fentanyl that will include more drug detection machines to conduct inspections at the southern border.
One controversial moment during the speech came when Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) yelled out, “It’s your fault” to Biden after the president mentioned immigration and fentanyl.