The kidnapping in Mexico of four U.S. citizens that left two of them dead has renewed the focus on the politically charged issue of southern border security and prompted calls from some lawmakers for the Biden administration to crack down on cartels more seriously. Administration officials called the killings “unacceptable” — potentially escalating tensions around the fraught issues of border security and U.S.-Mexico relations as authorities work to learn more about the incident, the Hill reports. U.S. and Mexican authorities had been searching for four Americans who were kidnapped last Friday after crossing the border for a trip to get a medical procedure. Two of the Americans were found dead on Tuesday. One of the others was found injured, and the fourth is alive. The FBI said gunmen started firing at the Americans’ vehicle shortly after it crossed into Mexico. They were then taken from the scene by armed men. “Attacks on U.S. citizens are unacceptable no matter where or under what circumstances they occur,” said White House spokesman John Kirby. “And we’re going to work closely with the Mexican government to make sure justice is done in this case.”
Kirby said it was too soon to discuss any potential policy changes, but some lawmakers were quick to offer up legislative prescriptions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC.) said he was ready to introduce a measure that would classify certain Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and “set the stage” for the U.S. to use military force in Mexico in the wake of the kidnapping. “I would tell the Mexican government if you don’t clean up your act, we’re going to clean it up for you,” Graham said. Other Republicans, such as Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), have argued for designating cartels as terrorist organizations, and the deadly kidnapping just over the border has renewed those calls. More broadly, the incident in the city of Matamoros has given Republicans another opening to lob political attacks at the White House over its immigration record.