Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday designated Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to establish a Mexican cartel division.
In an executive order, Abbott said that Mexican cartels are responsible for trafficking hundreds of millions of lethal doses of fentanyl into Texas and the United States and that 1,600 Texans were fatally poisoned by drugs containing fentanyl in 2021, “an increase of more than 680% since 2018.”
The governor also said that Mexican cartels smuggle humans across the Texas-Mexico border and generate “deadly violence.”
Citing powers vested in him by the U.S. constitution and laws of the state of Texas, Abbott designated the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and “any similarly situated Mexican drug cartels who may be identified in subsequent proclamations” as “foreign terrorist organizations.”
He said that the designation would “target [cartels] for enhanced apprehension, prosecution, and disruption, while heightening awareness of their deadly activities for our citizens and the international community.”
Abbott ordered the DPS to “establish a Mexican Cartel Division within the Texas Fusion Center to collect and analyze intelligence that will enable further apprehension, prosecution, and disruption of these foreign terrorist organizations.”
Among six other orders, he directed the DPS to “identify, arrest, and impede the gangs in Texas that support the drug and human smuggling operations of these foreign terrorist organizations.”
The Texas Tribune described the governor’s designation as “largely symbolic” because Texas doesn’t have terrorism-related statutes.
Abbott also wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to urge them to designate Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations.
“Mexican drug cartels terrorize the United States and its citizens every day, leaving thousands of dead bodies in their wake. Their latest weapons of choice are the millions of tiny pills laced with fentanyl that they pour across our southern border. As a result, it is necessary, now more than ever, for you to designate the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and any similarly situated Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” he wrote.
“This move would help us fight back against these terrorists and disrupt their deadly attacks on America.”
At a roundtable discussion with DPS Director Steve McCraw and other officials, Abbott declared that “cartels are terrorists, and it’s time we treated them that way.”
“In fact, more Americans died from fentanyl poisoning in the past year than all terrorist attacks across the globe in the past 100 years. In order to save our country, particularly our next generation, we must do more to get fentanyl off our streets,” he said.
The Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG are considered Mexico’s largest and most powerful criminal organizations. The United States Congressional Research Service said in a recent report that the CJNG operates in Mexico City and 27 states, while the Sinaloa Cartel is believed to have a presence in about half of Mexico’s 32 federal entities.
Adrian LeBaron, an anti-violence activist who lost nine members of his extended family in an armed attack near the Sonora-Chihuahua border in November 2019, indicated he agreed with Abbott’s designation of Mexican cartels, writing on Twitter that they are indeed terrorists.