Hagerty, Sinema, Lankford, Kelly Reintroduce Legislation to Crack Down on Cartel Recruitment and Smuggling

January 30, 2023

WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has joined Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), James Lankford (R-OK), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ), in reintroducing the Combating Cartels on Social Media Act, bipartisan legislation to help secure the southern border by cracking down on cartels recruiting teenagers through social media platforms.

“More than 100,000 Americans are currently dying annually of drug overdoses—many of which result from cartels exploiting the crisis at our southern border to smuggle fentanyl into the U.S,” said Senator Hagerty. “To facilitate this drug trafficking, these cartels go so far as to use social media platforms to recruit American teenagers to transport migrants and drugs from the border, endangering our communities. I’m pleased to work with my colleagues in taking this critical step to stop the exploitation of American social media platforms to destroy American lives.”

“Every day, cartels post on social media platforms and recruit teenagers in Arizona to act as drivers for their illegal operations,” said Senator Sinema. “These teens – some as young as 14 – are lured by the promise of easy cash and wind up participating in illegal smuggling, endangering everyday Arizonans along the way. Our bipartisan legislation cracks down on this criminal activity, holds social media platforms accountable, and further secures our border.”

“Social media companies (like YouTube and Facebook) list in their ‘terms of service’ that the platform cannot be used for illegal activities, but at the same time they allow human smugglers to buy ads, promote how to illegally enter the US, and demonstrate how to avoid the US Border Patrol when crossing the border,” said Senator Lankford. “The largest social media companies pick and choose which illegal activities they like and which they do not like, and clearly, they like people illegally crossing the US border. Social media companies need to be held accountable for being a partner with cartels and turning their heads to human trafficking at the cost of human lives. This has to stop.”

“Right now, cartels are using social media to lure teenagers into breaking the law and risking their lives for cash,” said Senator Kelly. “It has got to stop. This criminal activity is worsening our border crisis and putting Arizonans and law enforcement at risk. Our bipartisan legislation ensures that the Department of Homeland Security and social media platforms work together on a solution that stops this dangerous practice.”

The bipartisan Combating Cartels on Social Media Act establishes and implements a national strategy to combat illicit recruitment activity by transnational criminal organizations on social media and other online platforms to fight back against cartels using online platforms to recruit Americans for smuggling operations along the Southwest border. By enhancing cooperation between government agencies and private sector platforms, the strategy will help law enforcement hold cartels accountable while also giving communities the tools they need to engage with and educate at-risk youth who are targeted by the cartels.

The bipartisan Combating Cartels on Social Media Act also requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to analyze cartels’ illicit usage of social media and establishes a portal for technology companies to report cartel recruitment efforts in the U.S. to DHS and state and local partners.