President Donald Trump confirmed this week that his administration is considering “very seriously” designating Mexican cartels and their factions as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), a move that, if implemented, could be a game-changer on border security.
The president revealed this during a White House interview with Breitbart News.
“We are. We are,” Trump said in answer to a question directed by Breitbart. “We’re thinking about doing it very seriously. In fact, we’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
He continued, “As terrorists — as terrorist organizations, the answer is yes. They are.”
The U.S. Department of State defines an FTO as:
- A foreign organization;
- That engages in terrorist activity as defined by statute; and,
- The activity threatens the security of U.S. nationals or the national security of the United States.
Trump said he believes the cartels meet that criteria.
“Mexico, unfortunately, has lost control of the cartels,” Trump said. “They’ve totally lost control of the cartels. Mexico last year had 42,000 deaths — murders — 42,000. It’s considered one of the most unsafe countries in the world.”
And they cross the border to illegally traffic in drugs and humans and bring the violence with them.
This comes weeks after the president drafted an emergency border declaration that’s being stymied by Congress — Democrats because they don’t believe the constant influx of illegals constitutes a crisis; many Republicans because they fear a precedent that future administrations could take advantage of.
Others have suggested that the administration make this declaration as well. Republican Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Dr. Mark Green of Tennessee sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month requesting that he take the step.
“In 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement made more than 2,300 fentanyl arrests and 405 seizures of fentanyl totaling 2,383 pounds,” the letter said. “Additionally, cartels operate human trafficking operations into the U.S. that compel victims into forced labor or sexual slavery.”
The beauty of designating the cartels as FTOs is that it makes it totally an in-house operation. The administration, working through either the Department of State or Treasury, makes the designation — it would take the process out of the hands of Congress.
Secondly, it would change the conversation on immigration and border security. It’s not just mothers and children making the trek north — it’s designated terrorists. The Democratic Party has been tone-deaf to the problems illegal immigration pose. It would be more difficult for them to make the same argument over terrorism.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it would expand the war on terror.
Geographically that war has been concentrated primarily in the Middle East and parts of North Africa. This could conceivably bring it to our neighbor to the south.
Although Trump (as have his predecessors) has deployed National Guard troops to the southern border, by law they can only assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection — primarily in support roles. And they cannot cross the border.
The Posse Comitatus Act, Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1385, prohibits U.S. military personnel from enforcing domestic policies within the borders of the United States. But a whole different spin is placed on the situation if the cartels and their factions are designated as terrorists.
With permission of the Mexican government, the military could conceivably enter Mexico and meet the caravans before they reach the border, with the purpose of separating threats from non-threats. This would have the advantage of slowing the immigration down as they approach the United States.
That advantage would be increased in areas where a physical barrier can’t be built, such as along the Rio Grande.
As it stands now, if Congress votes to terminate Trump’s emergency declaration, it wouldn’t have to votes to override a presidential veto.
But declaring the cartels and their factions Foreign Terrorist Organizations would be an elegant solution while avoiding the possibility of the emergency declaration biting the GOP in the hindquarters in the future.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He’s also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. To read more of his reports - Click Here.
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