Rep. Crenshaw to propose declaration of war against Mexican criminal cartels

Amid the two worsening crises at the southern border of rampant illegal immigration and trafficking of deadly drugs, both facilitated by the Mexican criminal cartels, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) has proposed a formal declaration of war against those dangerous organizations, the Washington Examiner reported.

Crenshaw, a U.S. Navy SEAL veteran who represents a district in the Houston area, will soon submit for consideration a bill dubbed the Declaring War on the Cartels Act of 2023, which would provide more tools for the federal government to use in combating the criminal organizations most responsible for the chaos at the southern border and beyond.

Economic sanctions and military force

In a recent interview with the Examiner, Rep. Crenshaw said that fentanyl, an incredibly powerful synthetic opioid, is “often laced into other drugs [users] think they’re taking. This is not a typical drug problem. This is a poisoning problem. So they need to be treated as an enemy.”

“In the last few years, the cartels have drastically increased their fentanyl trafficking, which is poison, effectively, murdering tens of thousands of Americans a year,” the Texas congressman continued. “This is coming from two specific cartels: Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels. We have a target here, so let’s do it.”

Crenshaw’s bill, if passed, would authorize the imposition of economic sanctions and cut off financial aid to any nation found to be working with the cartels, and would also allow the U.S. military to use force when necessary against those organizations.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean just dropping bombs right away. Diplomatically, it means that we have a whole new leverage over the government. The Mexican government does not like to deal with this problem. They like to ignore it,” he explained. “This is obviously a real war. And they obviously need our help. And we should have an authorization to allow that. I think this gives the president leverage. And I would think it’d be a win.”

Punishment for individuals, repurposing seized funds

In addition to the financial punishments for countries that support or cooperate with the Mexican cartels, Rep. Crenshaw’s bill would also go after individuals linked to the cartels with a 15-year add-on to prison sentences for those convicted of cartel-related fines, and would also strip citizenship away from naturalized citizens convicted of the same.

The measure would also create a special Cartel Fund to hold any money recovered from cartel activities and seized assets, which would then be used to bolster the budgets of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

However, despite cries from some to label the Mexican cartels as “terrorist” organizations, Crenshaw’s bill doesn’t go that far for one simple reason — a “terrorist” designation would likely make entire nations eligible to claim asylum or refugee status, which would almost certainly significantly worsen the already record-high numbers of migrants seeking entry at the southern border.

Not a new idea

In the prior session of Congress, Rep. Crenshaw had introduced in November the Declaring War on the Cartels Act of 2022 which was a similar precursor that will soon be reintroduced.

“My bill goes after the cartels and their members by increasing federal criminal penalties, bypassing liberal big city District Attorneys and prosecutors, and hitting the cartels where it matters most: their bank accounts,” the congressman said in a statement at that time. “I designed this bill to use unique tools — like denaturalization and sanctions on government that support or allow cartels to operate — to deter individual support and corruption. We must take the cartels seriously and deter them and target them the same way we do terrorists. That is the only way to win.”

More recently, in January, Crenshaw joined with fellow combat veteran Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) to introduce a bill for the Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Mexican criminal cartels. That AUMF, which would have some built-in limitations and need to be reauthorized after five years, would allow for the U.S. military to take action against the cartels’ drug operations, criminal activities, and territory.

“The cartels are war with us — poisoning more than 80,000 Americans with fentanyl every year, creating a crisis at our border, and turning Mexico into a failed narco-state,” Crenshaw said in a statement at that time.

“It’s time we directly target them. My legislation will put us at war with the cartels by authorizing the use of military force against the cartels,” he added. “We cannot allow heavily armed and deadly cartels to destabilize Mexico and import people and drugs into the United States. We must start treating them like ISIS — because that is who they are.”