National Security

GOP Senators: Treat Drug Cartels As Terror Groups

Bill cites Nov. 4 killing of Mormon family

Sen. Tom Cotton / Getty Images

A group of Republican senators is pushing for the United States to treat drug cartels the way it does terrorist organizations following the massacre of nine American women and children in Mexico.

The Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act would prohibit cartel members and family members from entering the United States, freeze their assets, and allow the criminal and civil legal prosecution of individuals who aid the cartels. Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) introduced the act on Wednesday alongside six other Republican senators. The bill specifically references the Nov. 4 killing of three women and six children in rural Mexico. The victims were members of a Mormon family and held dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico.

"Criminal organizations and drug cartels like the one responsible for last month’s attack in Mexico ought to be treated just like terrorist groups in the eyes of the U.S. government," Cotton said in a statement. "This bill would help stop cartel violence by ensuring these groups—and anyone who helps them—face dire consequences for their actions."

The act would require the president to "submit a report to Congress that identifies the foreign organization associated with the foreign persons" determined to be responsible for the Nov. 4 murders. The report would also specify whether the cartel responsible should be designated a "Significant Transnational Criminal Organization."

"This designation would give federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies the tools they need to go after the butchers who blur the line between drug trafficking and terrorism," Sasse said in a statement. "Cartels have slaughtered innocent American children, blackmailed their way to the top, and flooded our country with drugs. Let’s crush these sickos."

President Donald Trump proposed designating the Mexican cartels as terror groups in the wake of the Nov. 4 killings. The Mexican government has pushed back against the idea, raising concerns that American action could violate Mexico's national sovereignty. Trump said that he has offered military help to Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

"At some point, [something] has to be done," Trump said.