(NewsNation) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. would “consider” naming Mexican drug cartels federal terrorist organizations during Wednesday’s Senate hearing on President Joe Biden’s budget.
This comes amid growing calls from lawmakers who have urged the Biden administration to label cartel members as terrorists in an effort to fight against human smuggling and the fentanyl crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Some officials have said if the Mexican cartels are going to act like terrorist organizations, they should be treated like terrorist organizations.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee he wouldn’t be opposed to the State Department declaring cartels terrorist organizations.
“I wouldn’t oppose it, but again I want to point out there are diplomatic concerns. We need the assistance of Mexico in this,” Garland said at the time.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott designated Mexican cartels as terrorists in an executive order last year.
By designating cartels as terrorists, police can “target them for enhanced apprehension, prosecution, and disruption,” the order states. It specifically mentions the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, as well as any other “similarly situated” cartels.
The White House has batted down suggestions from some Republican lawmakers to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups, arguing it would have minimal benefits.
Border authorities have been seizing fentanyl in mass numbers this year, and estimates put the number of pills discovered in August alone at more than 4 million. Authorities have seized more than 336 million “lethal doses of fentanyl” in the state since March 2021.