In an effort to battle drug cartels at the southern border, U.S. Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Tom Cotton (R-AR), joined by U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and David Purdue (R-GA), introduced the “Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act." This bill allows the federal government to create the designation of Significant Transnational Criminal Organization in order to impose sanctions on cartels similar to those the government imposes on foreign terrorists. 

“We need a smart, full-scale offensive against the cartels that have turned parts of our southern border into a violent wasteland,” said Senator Sasse. “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. Cartels have slaughtered innocent American children, blackmailed their way to the top, and flooded our country with drugs. Let’s crush these sickos.”

“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.  This bill would help stop cartel violence by ensuring these groups—and anyone who helps them—face dire consequences for their actions,” said Cotton. 

The full text of the bill may be viewed here. A summary is below: 

Background: 

The Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Act enables the federal government to impose the same sanctions for significant Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO) as are allowed on Foreign Terror Organizations including:

  • Barring organization members and their immediate families from admission to the United States
  • Freezing assets 
  • Seeking civil and criminal penalties against individuals providing material assistance or resources to the organization 

This act also requires that, once complete, the President submit a report to Congress with the government's findings on the November 4, 2019 attack on U.S. Citizens in Northern Mexico, including whether the organization responsible should be designated as a Significant TCO.