USA Today Op-Ed: Mexican drug cartels are terrorizing Americans. Here’s how the US needs to fight back.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s op-ed from USA Today. Published on March 8, 2023.

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes and Ismael Zambada Garcia. If you don’t know their names, you should. They should be as recognizable as Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein or Pablo Escobar.

These men and the cartels they command are responsible for killing tens of thousands of Americans every year. They live and operate right in our backyard and have more control and influence over the security of our border with Mexico than the U.S. government.

These men lead two of the most dangerous Mexican drug cartels – the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel. The cartels are well-armed and well-funded. They are not street gangs. In fact, they act more like the Islamic State terrorist organization than the mob.

In January, the Mexican military arrested Ovidio Guzman – son of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel leader known as “El Chapo.” The arrest played out like the battles we saw for years in the Middle East between government armed forces and terrorist groups.

The Sinaloa Cartel, equipped with .50 caliber machine guns and armored vehicles, killed 10 Mexican soldiers and injured dozens. Thousands of Mexican soldiers were involved, and the operation was finally completed after days of intense warfare in the streets of Culiacan, Mexico.

But unlike the battles with ISIS and al-Qaida, this did not happen in a distant land. It happened just south of our border.

The cartel-fueled violence can easily spill into the United States and threaten American lives, and that’s exactly what has happened.

Border communities are increasingly overwhelmed by the influx of migrants who must pay a toll to the cartels to facilitate their crossing. Cartel members wearing camouflage and carrying long guns are regularly spotted on both sides of the border.

Cartels overwhelm communities on the border

Border communities are increasingly overwhelmed by the influx of migrants who must pay a toll to the cartels to facilitate their crossing. Cartel members wearing camouflage and carrying long guns are regularly spotted on both sides of the border.

On Tuesday, two of the four Americans kidnapped last week in the border city of Matamoros were found dead and two others were rescued. Mexican authorities say the Americans, reportedly visiting Mexico for a medical procedure, were caught in a fight between rival cartels.

Earlier this year, six people, including a baby, were murdered in California because of cartel-related activity.

But the greatest threat to American lives is the newest product from these cartels: fentanyl. Using chemical precursors from China, the cartels manufacture this narcotic that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

They take advantage of and facilitate the chaos at our border so they can traffic fentanyl into America with ease.

Fentanyl kills thousands of Americans each year

Due to its highly addictive properties, it is laced into street drugs like oxycontin, cocaine, heroin and even Adderall or Xanax. The result is deadly, killing more than 70,000 Americans a year.

This isn’t a traditional drug problem that can be solved with addiction treatment. This is a deliberate poisoning of Americans.

Every day, we read horrific stories of young people who – without their knowledge – took a fentanyl-laced drug and died. We see the faces of innocent children targeted by fentanyl dealers on apps like Snapchat.

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized enough fentanyl to kill every single American – 379 million doses. This isn’t isolated to border states like Texas. It’s turning up in the deepest pockets of the country.

We need to target these narco-terrorists on all fronts – financially, with increased criminal penalties and even militarily. I’ve proposed several pieces of legislation that would do just that, including an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the cartels, which I introduced with Rep. Mike Waltz.

We also need to hit their wallets. That’s why I introduced the Declaring War on the Cartels Act, which would seize the cartels’ assets. My bill would also sanction and deny aid to foreign governments that coordinate with cartels or do not take the necessary action to stop cartel activity in their own countries – Mexico is an obvious example.

It would also authorize increased punishment for anyone convicted of aiding cartel-related crimes by adding up to 20 years to their sentence, and naturalized citizens could lose their citizenship if they are convicted.

Fight against cartels should be bipartisan effort

This is an enemy every American should want to defeat. Every policymaker, regardless of their political affiliation, should be joining legislation like mine. Unlike the border crisis or immigration reform, taking on this common enemy is not inherently partisan.

In a closely divided Congress, opportunities for bipartisan cooperation are rare. We should seize them whenever possible. Stopping the Mexican drug cartels from killing Americans offers a unique opportunity for immediate bipartisanship.

We should not let this chance to save American lives pass us by.