Ciscomani introduces bill to increase punishments for aiding cartels at the border

U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., addresses the crowd at the 2023 Graham County Republican Partyu Lincoln Day Luncheon at Eastern Arizona College. - David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., introduced new legislation to increase punishments on individuals who aid cartel operations at the southern border.

These individuals are commonly referred to as “spotters” and help cartels evade law enforcement by surveiling portions of the border, communicating the positions of law enforcement agents and officers, and destroying hard infrastructure and communications devices.

“As illegal activity at the border continues to hurt our communities in southern Arizona, cartels and bad actors are only getting more advanced in evading CBP and law enforcement,” Ciscomani said. “Every time I visit the border, agents on the ground have emphasized the need for urgent action on this issue. This effort sends a powerful message to cartels and the individuals who help them by increasing punishments for anyone willing to aid and abet the illicit activity of criminal organizations.”

The Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention and Elimination Act would harshen penalties on spotters by increasing fines and imposing a maximum prison time of 10 years on those convicted of helping cartels. Ciscomani is joined by his colleagues Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, on the legislation. It is companion legislation to a bill introduced by Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in the Senate.

“We have to do everything within our power and resources to stop the cartels from trafficking humans and drugs across the border and that includes punishing those who intentionally try to hinder the work of our immigration and border patrols,” Bacon said. “Whether it’s sharing information or destroying property, they need to know we mean business and that they will face the consequences.”

“Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe knowing there’s a chance they will be targeted for their efforts. Transnational Criminal Organizations and the criminals who assist them in targeting our law enforcement deserve severe repercussions,” Miller-Meeks said. “I’m proud to join my friend, Congressman Ciscomani, in introducing this common-sense bill, which will increase penalties for anyone aiding a cartel.”

“Cartels continue to facilitate illicit operations by taking advantage of our porous border—we have observed unprecedented levels of ‘got-aways’ and illicit fentanyl and other drugs cross our borders and our communities across Texas (District) 23 are bearing the brunt of it. The Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention and Elimination Act will increase penalties for individuals who aid cartels in their illegal and dangerous pursuits,” Gonzales said. “This legislation I am co-leading with Rep. Ciscomani will curtail dangerous cartel activity and take the safety of our communities seriously.”

The Arizona congressman also recently helped lead an effort to combat the illicit recruitment of Americans for cartels on social media.

Ciscomani represents Arizona’s 6th District, which includes stretches of the Tucson Sector of the U.S.-Mexico border. His district includes Graham and Greenlee counties, and he is the only Mexican-born member of the House Republican Conference.