- Declared and potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates believe that designating the Mexican cartels as terrorists, building the border wall and restoring Trump-era immigration policies President Joe Biden scrapped are all solutions to the crisis at the southern border, several of them told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- The DCNF contacted declared candidates former President Donald Trump, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and conservative businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, as well as potential contenders former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott – most of them responded.
- “I will deport migrants as humanely as possible. Some of them may have an opportunity to come back into the country through the legal process, if they follow the law and demonstrate a commitment to the values of our nation,” Ramaswamy told the DCNF.
Multiple declared and potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates possess hawkish stances on the border crisis, promising they’d target the imminent threat that Mexican cartels pose if president, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Illegal immigration will likely be a deciding factor in next year’s Republican primaries, as migrant crossings continue to surge at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Biden administration. Many GOP presidential contenders endorse designating the Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, activating the military and bringing back several Trump-era policies scrapped by the Biden administration, they told the DCNF. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Over A Dozen Illegal Migrants Escaped From Border Patrol Bus, Union Says)
The Biden administration has overseen a surge in illegal immigration at the southern border. In fiscal year 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered more than 2.3 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and more than one million between October 2022 and February 2023.
Upon entering office, Biden made it his priority to scrap a number of Trump-era immigration policies and restrict interior immigration enforcement, which included instituting a 100-day moratorium on deportations and restricting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to only go after threats to national security, border security and public safety.
When it comes to deterrence policies, many of the confirmed and unofficial candidates believe in building a border wall, ramping up ICE operations and bringing back Trump-era policies, such as “Remain in Mexico,” which forced certain illegal migrants to await asylum court proceedings in Mexico.
Declared candidates former President Donald Trump, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and conservative businessman Vivek Ramaswamy provided responses to the DCNF, as well as potential candidates former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
“I will deport migrants as humanely as possible. Some of them may have an opportunity to come back into the country through the legal process, if they follow the law and demonstrate a commitment to the values of our nation,” Ramaswamy told the DCNF.
Trump began construction of a wall along the southern border while in office before Biden ended the construction as one of his first actions upon entering the White House.
DeSantis, Haley, Pence, Pompeo and Abbott all said they supported the building of a border wall. Both Hutchinson and Haley also believe in ending “catch and release,” which is the use of parole authority to force authorities against detaining illegal migrants while awaiting court proceedings.
“We made a deal with Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out of our country; Biden is now trying to roll [sic] that deal. We need to return to the proven policies of the Trump-Pence administration, which allowed us to secure our southern border and reduce illegal immigration by 90%. The Biden administration swept aside all that success and security achieved during our administration and created a crisis at the southern border like we’ve never seen,” Pence said.
“The organization I founded, Advancing American Freedom, lays it out in The Freedom Agenda: Finish building the wall, immediately deport all illegal alien criminals and gang members, end asylum fraud, ban sanctuary cities and states like Newsom’s California, oppose amnesty, and implement E-Verify so that woke companies can’t flout our immigration laws on the back-end,” Pence said.
Pompeo, a former Trump administration official, also backs Trump-era illegal migrant expulsion policies.
“We had it right in the Trump administration – our Remain in Mexico Agreements spelled out that if any immigrant wished to claim asylum in the United States, they could not already be here illegally,” Pompeo said.
DeSantis stands by his actions to stem illegal immigration in Florida, which has included banning sanctuary cities, sending additional support to the southern border in Texas and declaring a state of emergency over migrants taking to the seas.
“We’re very tough on immigration in Florida. And a lot of people say you have all these Hispanics and 62% voted for me, but they say you can’t be tough on immigration, because — that’s totally false,” DeSantis said on March 10 in Des Moines, Iowa.
DeSantis is widely expected to run for the GOP nomination, and is the only other 2024 contender to poll in the double-digits besides Trump. The governor is speculated to make a presidential announcement following Florida’s legislative session in May.
The most recent indication of a DeSantis run is an interview the governor did with Piers Morgan, where he said he believes he can beat Biden in 2024.
Sununu, who is eyeing the “normal” Republican lane in 2024, mentioned the need for better legal pathways to immigrate to the U.S.
“We need immigration reform in this country, and that starts with securing the border and encouraging the best and brightest immigrants to come here legally so we can continue to grow and thrive as a nation,” Sununu said.
Designating the Mexican cartels as terrorists is also a priority for all the confirmed candidates and some of the potential contenders who spoke to the DCNF. The topic has been broached in the halls of congress after the recent cartel killings of two Americans traveling in Matamoros, Mexico.
Additionally, the cartels are largely responsible for the illicit fentanyl business, making the drug in clandestine labs in Mexico and smuggling it across the southern border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Trump’s campaign pointed the DCNF to his previous statements regarding making the designation, which he was considering while in the White House but never did.
Haley believes the designation should be made.
“Haley would crush the cartels by designating them foreign terrorist organizations,” Haley spokesman Ken Farnaso told the DCNF.
Ramaswamy plans to make the designation with or without Mexico’s approval, he said.
“In January 2025, I will call the President of Mexico with a clear message: we will support you in eliminating the cartels, for a tiny fraction of what we spent in Ukraine. And if you don’t do it, we’ll come in and do it for you – because we must protect American lives on our own soil,” Ramaswamy said.
The former vice president believes the designation is necessary, he told the DCNF.
“Absolutely, and every day that we wait to do so puts American families in danger. The drug cartels are some of the deadliest groups that exist today, they are certainly as deadly and dangerous as any of the groups currently listed as foreign terrorist organizations,” Pence said.
Pence is weighing a decision to run for president by visiting early primary states to gauge interest, and said a decision to go up against his former running mate will come sometime in the Spring.
“Cartels are criminal organizations responsible for killing countless Americans every year and should absolutely be labeled as terrorist organizations,” Sununu said.
Sununu is rumored to be considering a run for president and recently founded the Live Free or Die political action committee (PAC). He has openly called for moving on from the Trump-era, while criticizing DeSantis for being “extreme.”
“These cartels are lethal, multi-national organizations that profit off human suffering,” Pompeo said, adding, “Their threat to the American people meets the statutory requirement for designation.”
Pompeo is consulting with his family to “decide what’s next” for the former Secretary of State, and said a decision will come in the “next couple months.” If he runs, he will also have to go up against his former boss, and Republican frontrunner, Trump.
Hutchinson – who preceded Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary – said he was “seriously” considering running for president in 2024, and noted that the party must move away from the former president.
“I have been an outspoken supporter of designating the Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. This designation allows us to use many more resources and tools to combat the human suffering these criminal organizations spread throughout our communities,” Hutchinson said.
Abbott, who made the designation on the state level as governor, believes in the federal government doing the same. A presidential decision from the governor won’t come until after Memorial Day, according to The Associated Press.
“Governor Abbott designated Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations in September 2022 and has repeatedly called on President Biden to do the same at the federal level,” Abbott’s press secretary, Andrew Mahaleris, told the DCNF.
Leveraging the powers of the U.S. military is also a priority for many of the Republicans who spoke with the DCNF.
Trump’s team said he would do so. Pence, however, believes it should be a last resort measure.
“The first job of a government is to secure the safety of its people, be that in deterrence abroad against our foreign adversaries or securing the southern border. During the Trump-Pence administration, we deployed the National Guard to stop the tidal flood of illegal immigrants into our country, chaos, but…deploying the National Guard should be the last line of defense,” Pence said.
Potential candidates South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and former National Security Advisor John Bolton did not provide responses to the DCNF.
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