“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and Texans are falling victim to the Mexican cartels that are producing it,” Abbott said Wednesday at a border summit in Midland, Texas, surrounded by law enforcement. “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. In order to save our country, particularly our next generation, we must do more to get fentanyl off our streets.”

He cites the cartels’ use of fentanyl as a chemical agent to kill Americans at an alarming rate. In one year’s time, fentanyl has killed nearly 20 times more people than those who were killed in terrorist attacks over decades, Abbott said.

“In this light, the magnitude of the terrorism related to the introduction of fentanyl by Mexican drug cartels is astonishing,” Abbott wrote the president. Citing federal data, he said it underscores that fentanyl “is a ‘chemical agent’ used by Mexican drug cartels who know that it ‘endanger[s], directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals.’ … This is ‘terrorist activity’ within the meaning of the INA and fulfills the requirements for designation under Section 219.”

In his executive order, Abbott wrote, “Mexican drug cartels are responsible for trafficking hundreds of millions of lethal doses of fentanyl into Texas and the United States. Over 1,600 Texans were fatally poisoned by drugs containing fentanyl in 2021, representing an increase of more than 680 percent since 2018, and fentanyl’s death toll continues to rise in 2022.”

Since his border security initiative, Operation Lone Star, was launched last March, Texas DPS officials have seized more than 336 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill everyone in the U.S.

Upon hearing the news, Kinney County Attorney Brent Smith, who’s county was the first to declare a disaster and an invasion that he contends was directly caused by “Biden administration open border policies,” said he “wholeheartedly supports” Abbott’s designation of cartels as terrorists.

He told The Center Square Wednesday, “The cartels have no regard for human life and have brought death and destruction into the state of Texas and are responsible for the poisoning of thousands of Americans. The danger they pose to America is REAL and touches every state in the Union. This is a necessary step in securing the Texas border and protecting the lives of Texans.”

Texas Public Policy Foundation CEO Greg Sindelar also lauded Abbott’s action, saying, “Mexican drug cartels have flooded Texas and the nation with untold amounts of lethal drugs, particularly fentanyl, that have cost the lives of countless Americans. The scourge is so widespread and intentional it can only be properly viewed as an attack on communities across the nation. This action to seize cartel assets and upset operations will undoubtedly save lives and make Texas safer.”

Wade Miller, executive director of Citizens for Renewing America, also said he supported “this step and any resulting authorities that help law enforcement combat cartels.” However, he told The Center Square, “cartel power derives from both their brutality AND their access to billions of dollars via human smuggling, illicit drugs, and other black market activities. Until an invasion is declared, and the border completely secured, there won’t be any significant degradation of cartel influence and power. I hope that this is a strong first step towards declaring an invasion at some point in the near future.”

National security law expert Jonathan Hullihan told The Center Square, “The Texas FTO designation is important because this clarifies the relationship between trafficking fentanyl by non-state actors who exercise command and control of dehumanizing, violent, and other atrocious narco-terrorism activities that is a common occurrence at the Texas border.”

“It’s clear the cartels are engaged in unconventional warfare, fighting for territory on both sides of the border to expand their influence in the United States,” he said, and Abbott’s FTO designation “adds additional mechanisms to find, fix, and disrupt their capabilities.”

But without a federal government FTO designation and in light of the federal government’s “failure to meet its basic Constitutional guarantee to protect State borders,” Hullihan said, Abbott’s designation further justifies the need for him to declare an invasion and “use his inherent authority under Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution and Article IV, Section 7 of the Texas Constitution to defend the State of Texas.”

He added, “While a Texas FTO designation is a step in the right direction, the natural evolution of this designation will be for Governor Abbott to …  utilize his full authority as Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Military Forces and take steps necessary to repel the invasion at the border.”