(NewsNation) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday designated Mexican drug cartels as terrorists and called on the Biden administration to do the same.
“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, & Texans are victimized by Mexican cartels that produce & import it,” he tweeted. “Texas is stepping up to get these gangs & deadly drugs off our streets.”
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. Cartels have also been producing multi-colored pills, dubbed “rainbow” fentanyl, that is thought to be targeting America’s youth.
More than 1,600 Texans were killed by fentanyl, an increase of more than 680%, since 2018, according to Abbott’s executive order. Authorities have seized more than 336 million “lethal doses of fentanyl” in the state since March 2021.
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.
A separate division will be created within the Texas Department of Public Safety to gather intelligence on cartels and assist in gang members’ arrests and prosecutions.
In his letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Abbott blamed “open border policies” for the surge in drug trafficking.
“Texas is already doing more than its fair share to stem the tide of fentanyl, not to mention the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children, that these cartels inflict,” the letter states. “Our nation needs the federal government to protect Americans from foreign threats, too.”
Biden previously issued an executive order in December 2021 declaring a national emergency due to trafficking, and the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration has said “fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.”
In urging the terrorist designation at a federal level, Abbott argued that cartel assets could be frozen and authorities could more aggressively pursue traffickers. He previously sent a letter to the administration in April 2021 requesting the designation.
“But if you are ready to make Americans safer, it will be better late than never,” the letter states. “As the number of American deaths continues to rise due to the cartels’ terrorist behavior, now is the time to act.”