Sinema Secures Her Bipartisan Bills Combating Cartel Smuggling and the Flow of Fentanyl in Annual Defense Legislation

Jul 31, 2023

Senator’s Combating Cartels on Social Media Act & FEND Off Fentanyl Act included in annual National Defense Authorization Act

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema successfully included two of her bipartisan bills keeping families safe by cracking down on cartels’ smuggling of dangerous weapons, individuals, and drugs like fentanyl in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Sinema’s Combating Cartels on Social Media Act – also cosponsored by fellow Arizona Senator Mark Kelly – cracks down on cartels’ illegal and dangerous recruitment of teenagers through social media to conduct smuggling and trafficking. Sinema’s FEND Off Fentanyl Act, cosponsored by Kelly, strengthens America’s response to the fentanyl crisis and stops the flow of fentanyl into Arizona by targeting cartels financially.
“I’m committed to keeping Arizona communities safe and secure by stopping dangerous cartels from smuggling drugs across the border. Our bipartisan bills crack down on the flow of fentanyl, help stop human smuggling, and give Arizona families peace of mind. Once they’re signed into law, they’ll make Arizona – and America – a safer, healthier place to call home,” said Sinema.
“I have heard from our sheriffs, Border Patrol agents, and community leaders about how cartel drug trafficking operations harm communities every day,” said Kelly. “The federal government must have a vigorous response to stop these criminals and keep dangerous drugs, like fentanyl, from poisoning Arizonans. These bills will go after the cartels and their recruitment of smugglers to make Arizona communities safer.”
“Every day, my deputies work to keep our communities safe from load drivers recruited by cartels on social media. Thanks to Senator Sinema’s efforts with the Combatting Cartels on Social Media Act, we’ll be able to make Cochise County roads and families safer by cracking down on this dangerous and illegal recruitment. We’re looking forward to seeing this life-saving legislation become the law of the land,” said Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels.
“We are pleased to see steps taken to address cartels’ use of social media to recruit load car drivers to transport migrants north from near the U.S.-Mexico Border,” said Sierra Vista Mayor Clea McCaa. “These load car drivers are encouraged to drive recklessly through southern Arizona communities, showing little regard for the potentially deadly consequences of their actions. This matter is of the utmost concern to residents of Sierra Vista and we are grateful to Senator Sinema for getting this bill passed.”
“Fentanyl and illicit drugs are ravaging our communities across the Nation. Law enforcement needs every tool at their disposal to combat these criminal drug cartels and keep our citizens safe. We applaud Senate Bill 61 being taken up in committee and we urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill. It is imperative that Congress act quickly and decisively to help save American lives,” said Sheriff Jim Skinner, Collin County, Texas – Chair, Government Affairs Committee, National Sheriffs’ Association.
“Social media is a driving force for transcontinental criminal organizations and cartels in the recruitment of individuals to assist them in furthering the crimes of drug trafficking as well as human trafficking and sex trafficking.  Further, social media platforms have been less than cooperative with law enforcement efforts to investigate these criminal activities effectively and successfully.   The Western States Sheriffs’ Association supports S.61 and calls on congress to move this bill to law in an effort to combat cartels on social media and establish policy mandates by and for Social Media platforms in regards to law-enforcement investigations,” said Dave Brown, Western State Sheriffs’ Association Deputy Director.
Recent findings show that fentanyl seizures in Arizona account for over half of all the fentanyl seizures in the United States. 
The FEND Off Fentanyl Act requires the U.S. Treasury Department to prioritize the fentanyl epidemic and deploy its sanctions and anti-money laundering authorities to target the illicit funds of criminal cartels. The bill also declares the international trafficking of opioids to be a national emergency, requires the President to sanction a drug cartel’s key members engaged in the international opioid trade, and extends the statute of limitations from 5 years to 10 years for sanctions violations to increase chances to catch these criminals. Additionally, Sinema and Kelly’s FEND Off Fentanyl Act follows the money trail and makes it harder for opioid traffickers to engage in money laundering to hide their crimes.
Sinema and Kelly’s Combating Cartels on Social Media Act establishes and implements a national strategy to combat illicit cartel recruitment activity 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. 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 Senators’ legislation also requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to analyze cartels’ illicit usage of social media and establishes a process for technology companies to voluntarily report cartel recruitment efforts in the United States to DHS and state and local partners.