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Republicans’ Border Policy Has Apparently Escalated From “Build the Wall” to “Invade Mexico”

Republicans have apparently moved well beyond the elementary “build the wall” messaging that Donald Trump introduced in 2016: They’re literally calling to bomb Mexico, as Politico highlighted in a Monday report.

Less than two years after the US finally unwound its two-decades-long war in Afghanistan, Republicans—including Trump—are mounting threats toward America’s southern neighbor. Senator Tom Cotton has said he’s open to sending the military to Mexico; meanwhile, Texas Republican representative Dan Crenshaw and Florida Republican representative Mike Waltz are introducing legislation to authorize war with cartels, and other Republican House and Senate lawmakers have called for labeling drug cartels as terrorist groups. And in an operational plan eerily similar to the opening salvo of the global war on terror, Trump, who claims the cartels can be destroyed “just as we took down ISIS,” has promised to dispatch US special-forces teams and considered enlisting the Mexican government in joint military operations, according to Rolling Stone. He has also called for a “cyber warfare” campaign against cartel leaders.

Last month, one of Trump’s leading congressional defenders even criticized his administration for not bombing drug cartels when it had the chance. “One of the things we learned post-Trump-presidency is that he had ordered a bombing of a couple of fentanyl labs, crystal meth labs, in Mexico, just across the border, and for whatever reason the military didn’t do it,” House Oversight chairman James Comer told Fox News. “I think that was a mistake.”

The ideas appear to stem from a white paper by the Center for Renewing America, a Trump-aligned think tank, that the former president was briefed on, according to sources who spoke to Rolling Stone. The paper shrugs off Mexico’s sovereignty: “It is vital that Mexico not be led to believe that they have veto power to prevent the US from taking the actions necessary to secure its borders and people.”

Trump reportedly scrapped the plan of bombing Mexico over fears that it would exacerbate the migrant crisis by displacing those living near combat zones and creating a new wave of refugees. Those concerns have apparently gone by the wayside as he attempts to outpace his primary rivals in a race to the right. This push for a new American war—in a bordering country, no less—comes as Republicans explore novel ways to attack Joe Biden and the Democratic Party on immigration, drug trafficking, and border security, as well as put forward their own anti-immigration policy platforms.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has introduced among the most severe legislation in the nation targeting undocumented immigrants, including a bill that would make it a felony to shelter, hire, and transport them, according to The New York Times. The Florida legislature is expected to pass the bills in the coming weeks and would require hospitals to report the immigration status of patients to the state government and invalidate out-of-state driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants. DeSantis, who is weighing a 2024 presidential run, has marketed the proposals as a response to “Biden’s border crisis.”

Meanwhile, Vivek Ramaswamy, a conservative tech entrepreneur and activist running for the Republican presidential nomination, has made striking Mexican cartels one of the chief issues of his campaign. “If the US military has one job, it’s to protect Americans on our own soil,” he tweeted last month, adding that, if elected, he would send US troops into Mexico with or without approval from the country’s president. Ramaswamy, in an interview with Politico published Monday, also argued that the cartels are “an eligible target for the use of authorized military force.”

The Biden administration, for its part, is not engaging in this Republican saber-rattling. “The administration is not considering military action in Mexico,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told Politico. “Designating these cartels as foreign terrorist organizations would not grant us any additional authorities that we don’t already have.”