WASHINGTON, DC—Thursday, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Rep. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) introduced the bipartisan Identifying Drug Cartels as Terrorists Act. This bipartisan legislation would list seven Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), as defined by section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Gulf Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Beltran Leyva Cartel, the Juarez Cartel, the Los Zetas Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Tijuana Cartel have been described by the Drug Enforcement Administration as the most prominent in Mexico. This designation will allow the United States to direct the resources necessary to dismantle them, ending their reigns of terror, and help to end the flow of drugs coming across our southern border, which fuels the addiction epidemic in our communities.

“Mexican drug cartels control the territory along our Southwest Border, spreading drugs and crime, across Mexico and into the United States. These criminal organizations are a menace to society, and we need to do everything in our power to continue to fight them. That is why I am introducing this legislation, to officially designate these criminals as foreign terrorist organizations,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “These criminals bring illegal narcotics, commit atrocious acts of violence, and smuggle humans across our border. They harm lives every day, and it is time we call them what they are: terrorists. I thank my friend Congressman Brindisi for joining me in introducing this hard-hitting and bipartisan legislation, and I will continue to work to see this bill become law.”

“Illegal drugs are terrorizing our communities and it is time we called these drug cartels what they are: terrorists,” Rep. Brindisi said. “So many families have been torn apart by drugs and these cartels are committing heinous criminal acts. Identifying these traffickers as terrorists will give our law enforcement more tools to crack down on bad actors at our southern border and around the world. Securing our border and stemming the flow of illegal drugs is paramount to our national security and the health of our nation. I am excited to work with my friend Congressman Fitzpatrick to do just that.”

The seven cartels listed above meet the criteria for being engaged in terrorist activity by committing hijacking, sabotage, detention, murder, and assaulting innocent people. Once the Department of State labels a group as an FTO, known members are banned from entering the United States, and it also becomes illegal for Americans to intentionally support these groups. Financial institutions are also prohibited from conducting any business with the organizations, members or associates. Under current laws, these cartels are listed as drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), despite the fact that they are involved in a wide range of criminal operations, exceeding the illegal drug trade. These crimes include fraud, weapons trafficking, bribery, money laundering, extortion, counterfeiting, and smuggling. While several cartels have been labeled as Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs), the TCO and DTO designations do not give law enforcement the appropriate tools to challenge the cartels, as opposed to official FTOs such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda.