Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law designating drug cartels to be “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” The new law will expand the state’s ability to fight the activities of Mexican drug cartels in connection to human smuggling, drug smuggling, money laundering, and other organized criminal activities.
During a ceremony in the Texas Capitol, Governor Abbott said, “Today, I am signing six bills from this year’s regular session to ensure that Texas can continue to do even more to stop illegal immigration at our southern border and provide new tools to the brave men and women along the southern border to protect Texans and Americans from the chaos and crisis of the border.”
One of those bills, Senate Bill 1900 sponsored by Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Representative Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City), designates drug cartels to be Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). The bill also adds FTOs to the current Texas intelligence databases and provides authority for local agencies to seek public nuisance claims against them.
“Today, public enemy number one is the Mexican cartels, and they impact every community in Texas and the United States,” Texas Department of Public Safety Director, Colonel Steve McCraw said during the signing ceremony. “Our mission is to detect and interdict transitional criminal activity and create proactive strategies to combat it. It’s dangerous to cross between ports of entry, and securing the border between them is ideal to fight Mexican cartels.”
The new law codifies an executive order signed by Abbott in September 2022, Breitbart Texas reported.
“Cartels are terrorists, and it’s time we treated them that way. In fact, more Americans died from fentanyl poisoning in the past year than all terrorist attacks across the globe in the past 100 years,” Abbott said at the time. “In order to save our country, particularly our next generation, we must do more to get fentanyl off our streets.”
The executive order identified the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation Cartels (CJNG) as terrorist organizations. He requested President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris create federal terrorist designations for these cartels and others producing and distributing fentanyl.
The Texas Senate passed the bill with a near-unanimous vote of 30 Yeas and one Nay. State Senator Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) was the lone nay in the Senate vote. The House passed the bill by a vote of 93 Yeas and 51 Nays. The newly signed law becomes effective on September 1, 2023.
Other border-related bills signed by the governor include:
- Senate Bill 423 (Paxton/Wilson, T.M.) provides Texas military forces the authority to use unmanned aircrafts as part of an operation, exercise, or mission. The bill legalizes the use of drones for search and recovery missions after natural disasters and for monitoring the Texas-Mexico border as part of Operation Lone Star.
- Senate Bill 602 (Birdwell/Harless) expands the authority of U.S. Border Patrol agents who have completed a DPS training program to include arrest, search, and seizure at established border checkpoints and points of entry for felony offenses under Texas law. Current law only allows agents to detain certain individuals at these locations.
- Senate Bill 1133 (Blanco/King, T.) creates a grant program to compensate agricultural landowners up to $75,000 for property damage caused by trespassers committing a border crime, such as the smuggling of persons, evading arrest, human trafficking, or a drug offense. Increased migrant traffic and law enforcement activity has left many landowners with significant financial losses and property damage.
- Senate Bill 1403 (Parker/Spiller) authorizes the Governor to coordinate and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states without congressional approval. The compact will allow participating states to share law enforcement intelligence and resources for heightened detection and deterrence of illegal border activity and will further protect personnel and property to overcome continued shortcomings of existing federal border policy.
- Senate Bill 1484 (Creighton/Holland) creates a collaborative border operations training program through DPS for peace officers employed by local law enforcement agencies along the border. The bill will allow DPS to share expertise in identifying and preventing of transnational criminal activity to local authorities.
The Texas legislature is currently in a special session called by Governor Abbott to pass additional measures related to border security in Texas.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point?Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.