President Trump revealed during his interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that his administration is in the process of officially designating Mexican drug cartels as "Foreign Terrorist Organizations" (FTOs).
"They will be designated…. Look, we are losing 100,000 people a year to what is happening and what is coming through from Mexico," the president explained. "Absolutely they will be designated…. I have been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process."
Trump's revelation comes not long after cartel gunmen killed nine U.S. citizens in the northern Mexican state of Sonora.
The Bureau of Counterterrorism in the State Department handles the process of compiling the information on a group to be considered an FTO and presenting it to the Secretary of State, who then consults with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury.
"FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business," the U.S. State Department says.
In order for an organization to be labeled as an FTO, they must be the following:
- It must be a foreign organization.
- The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)),* or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)),** or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
- The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.
When a group is designated as an FTO, it is against the law for American citizens or residents to knowingly provide "material support or resources" to a designated FTO and people belonging to the FTO, "if they are aliens, are inadmissible to and, in certain circumstances, removable from the United States."