Sinema Continues Work Keeping Arizona Safe and Secure by Cracking Down on Cartel Recruitment and Smuggling

Jan 30, 2023

Senator’s bipartisan legislation keeps Arizona families safe by cracking down on cartels recruiting Arizona teenagers through social media platforms

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Chair of the Senate Border Management Subcommittee, demonstrated her commitment to securing the border and keeping Arizona families safe by re-introducing her Combating Cartels on Social Media Act – bipartisan legislation she introduced with Republican Senator James Lankford (Okla.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Republican Senator Bill Hagerty (Tenn.)
“Every day, cartels post on social media platforms and recruit teenagers in Arizona to act as drivers for their illegal operations. 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,” said Sinema.
“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 Lankford, Ranking Member of the Senate Border Management Subcommittee. “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. 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,” said Kelly. 
“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 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.”

The re-introduction comes on the heels of Sinema’s bipartisan congressional delegation trip to the Southwest border, during which the Senator highlighted the realities of the security and humanitarian crisis to a solutions-focused group of her colleagues. 
Sinema’s 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 Arizonans 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 border communities in Arizona 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. Sinema’s legislation comes after a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing where Sinema secured a commitment from four leading social media platforms to share cartel recruitment content with DHS – a task that will be made easier through the development of the dedicated information-sharing portal required by Sinema’s bill.
At the hearing, Sinema also questioned social media executives about how the algorithms their platforms use can amplify and promote cartel-sponsored content. The Senator asked TikTok and Meta executives about what their companies are doing to prevent cartels from using their platforms to recruit teenagers along Arizona’s border and highlighted how the lives of innocent bystanders and migrants are put at risk when cartel-recruited teens flee law enforcement at high speeds in border communities across Arizona. Sinema’s bipartisan Combating Cartels on Social Media Act will ensure online platforms work together with DHS to prevent Arizona teens from being preyed upon by cartels, while also ensuring government agencies prioritize tackling cartels’ use of social media to recruit Americans.