Rep. Crenshaw bill would ramp up federal penalties for Mexican cartels, crack down on finances

FIRST ON FOX: Legislation being introduced by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, on Wednesday would significantly ramp up federal penalties for those involved in Mexican cartels — including specifically targeting their enormous financial power — as a response to the crisis at the southern border.

“Mexican cartels are destroying the rule of law in our country – trafficking drugs and people into the U.S,” Crenshaw said in a statement.

The bill, “Declaring War on the Cartels Act,” would add to existing language in the U.S. code that targets criminal street gangs in order to target transnational criminal organizations that are involved in smuggling drugs and illegal migrants into the U.S. across the southern border.

The bill would make it punishable by up to 20 years for members of such organizations who are involved in crimes related to drugs, violence, fraud, human smuggling, immigration crimes and sex trafficking. It would also make cartel members and their family inadmissible to the U.S. and allow for the revocation of naturalized citizenship and green cards for those convicted of such activity.


Rep. Dan Crenshaw has introduced a number of border-related pieces of legislation this Congress as the U.S. deals with a historic migrant surge at the southern border.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw has introduced a number of border-related pieces of legislation this Congress as the U.S. deals with a historic migrant surge at the southern border.
(Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Additionally, it would use existing federal powers to block cartel organizations from using U.S. financial institutions and allow for the seizure of assets — that would then be deposited into a “CARTEL fund” that would increase funding for law enforcement to go after cartels.

Of that funding, 75% would go to DHS agencies including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while the remainder would go to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The legislation would also allow for sanctions on those who aid cartels and to freeze foreign aid to countries who aid or do not prevent cartel activity.

“My bill goes after the cartels and their members by increasing federal criminal penalties, bypassing liberal big city District Attorneys and prosecutors, and hitting the cartels where it matters most: their bank accounts,” Crenshaw said. “I designed this bill to use unique tools–like denaturalization and sanctions on governments that support or allow cartels to operate–to deter individual support and corruption.”

“We must take the cartels seriously and deter them and target them the same way we do terrorists. That is the only way to win,” he added.

The legislation is one of a number of bills the Texas lawmaker has introduced to crack down on the crisis at the southern border. He has also introduced bills to allow for longer detention of migrant minors, ban asylum claims between ports of entry and ramp up the numbers of ICE prosecutors to deal with the backlog of cases in the immigration system.

The bill comes just days after CBP announced there were more than 230,000 migrant encounters in October — what is believed to be the highest October number in DHS history.


There were more than 2.3 million migrant encounters in FY 2022, on top of the then-historic 1.7 million in FY 2021. Additionally, the U.S. has been dealing with a fentanyl crisis that is primarily smuggled across the U.S. land border by Mexican cartels. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and just 2 mg is considered a lethal dose.

Republicans have hammered the Biden administration for rolling back interior enforcement as well as a number of Trump-era border security measures. The Biden administration, meanwhile, has pinned the crisis on “root causes” like violence, poverty and corruption in Central America – while repeatedly stating that the border is “secure.”

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