President Donald Trump is mulling designating Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, he told Breitbart News in a Monday Oval Office interview.
“We’re thinking about doing it very seriously. In fact, we’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” Trump said when asked if he was considering the move. “As terrorists — as terrorist organizations, the answer is yes. They are.”
Trump lamented the inability of the Mexican government to control the violence, saying “they’ve totally lost control of the cartels. Mexico last year had 42,000 deaths — murders — 42,000. It’s considered one of the most unsafe countries in the world.”
GOP lawmakers Mark Green and Chip Roy proposed in February 2019 to designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, enabling the U.S. Treasury Department to sanction their assets aggressively. (RELATED: Hill Republicans Try To Designate Mexican Drug Cartels As Terror Groups)
Trump has broad authority to designate groups as terrorist organizations under the Immigration and Nationality Act which triggers a variety of actions that the executive branch can take. These include the seizing of all property identified, the prohibition of U.S. persons dealing with these organizations, criminal penalties on organizations that do business with them, and other consequences.
The State Department says the designation of foreign terrorist groups depends on whether “the terrorist activity or terrorism of the organization threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States.”
Todd Bensman explained for the Center for Immigration Studies in Feb 2019:
A foreign terrorist organization designation opens a whole new armory of American weaponry that can be used to debilitate the cartels and all who lend support and assistance to them, just like ISIS: prosecution of associates for “material support”, the freezing of a broader range of funds, immigration restrictions on all members of the organizations, and travel restrictions on many others. These tools would add to already significant counter-cartel assets already in use.