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Sens. Cruz, Cotton Introduce Bill Imposing Sanctions on Drug Cartels

December 11, 2019

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) today introduced the Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act, legislation that would subject certain foreign criminal organizations like drug cartels to sanctions, including immigration, financial, and criminal penalties. The process would be similar to the system used for designating entities as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) joined as original cosponsors.

"Though the camera crews have left, Texans and all Americans regularly face the consequences of an unsecured southern border," Sen. Cruz said. "Violent gang members and drug cartels terrorize communities both abroad and along the Texas-Mexico border. This bill gives the president expanded options to label and take action against those cartels. This is an important step in safeguarding the American people."

"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," Sen. Cotton said.

"Drug cartels function at a high level of sophistication. It is imperative that they be subject to repercussions that appropriately correspond to their criminal activity. This legislation seeks to give law enforcement the tools needed to penalize their crimes," Sen. Blackburn said.

"From narcotics and human trafficking to fuel theft and money laundering, transnational criminal organizations don't care who they hurt by their single-minded focus on turning an enormous profit from corrupt dealings," Sen. Cornyn said. "This legislation would provide law enforcement additional tools to keep Americans safe and shut down the Cartel networks."

"Mexican cartels are a national security and law enforcement threat," Sen. Graham said. "It is time to update our laws to give us more tools to fight against this scourge. I fully support Senator Cotton's efforts so we can effectively deal with the transnational criminal activity emanating from Mexico."

"Violent Mexican cartels have gotten rich by flooding our communities with addictive drugs that are ruining lives and tearing families apart. Unfortunately, the Mexican government has been unwilling or unable to stop these criminals. Enough is enough. This bill will beat back the cartels by freezing their assets, removing them from the country, and sanctioning anyone who helps sustain their criminal enterprises," Sen. Hawley said.

"Cartels are the worst of humanity. As we saw in last month's horrific attack in Mexico, they terrorize innocent families and exploit children in order to fuel the drug trade and other illicit activity. These criminal organizations must face severe financial consequences for the terror they inflict in the United States and across the world. We have to put the cartels out of business once and for all," Sen. Perdue said.

"By providing a new tool to designate significant transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), subject them to financial and criminal penalties, and bar their members from the United States, this legislation will better equip us to meet the threats our nation faces from violent cartels and other foreign criminal networks. Our legislation also requires the president to submit a full report to Congress regarding the horrific attacks against Americans in Mexico last month, including whether the organization responsible should be designated as a Significant Transnational Criminal Organization and sanctioned under our legislation," Sen. Romney said.

"We need a smart, full-scale offensive against the cartels that have turned parts of our southern border into a violent wasteland," Sen. Sasse said. "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."

Read the full text of the bill here. A summary is below:

Background:
• The Significant Transnational Criminal Organization Designation Act enables the federal government to impose on the most significant Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) the same sanctions that apply to FTOs including:
o Barring organization members and their immediate families from admission to the United States.
o Freezing assets.
o Seeking civil and criminal penalties against Individuals providing material assistance or resources to the organization.
• The bill also requires the President to submit a report to Congress with the government's findings on the November 4, 2019 attack on U.S. citizens in northern Mexico once the investigation is completed, including whether the organization responsible should be designated a Significant TCO.

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