Mexican cartels, with dangerous motives, have quietly and consistently infiltrated urban areas across the United States, leaving everyone to wonder about the scale and scope of their impact.

Arrests have been made in the brutal killing of a pregnant San Antonio woman and her boyfriend—in what police say is a drug-related crime. Savanah Nicole Soto, 18, was scheduled to have her labor induced just before Christmas, but she went missing along with Matthew Guerra, 22. They were found in Guerra’s car the day after Christmas.

There’s now speculation that the murders—which included Soto’s unborn baby—can be traced back to Mexican criminal cartels.

In San Antonio, the drug trade is controlled by the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, which deals primarily with methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

These criminal organizations have a presence in more than 1,000 U.S. cities, which is a staggering testament to their commitment to infiltrating urban cities in America. Their operations go beyond mere statistics; they strike at the core of our community fabric, crippling neighborhoods and harming families.

Economically, the impact is equally damning. Cartel activities strain local economies, stifle growth, and tarnish the reputation of once-thriving neighborhoods. Small businesses suffer, employment dwindles, and property values plummet. The blight of cartel influence is palpable, leaving a scar on the urban terrain.

In cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston, incidents of cartel-related violence have surged, claiming innocent lives and infusing fear among residents. The human toll, the shattered sense of security, is immeasurable.

But it’s not just violence; it’s also the drug epidemic corroding our urban communities. Cartel-produced narcotics flood our streets, preying on vulnerable individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a marked increase in overdose deaths linked to highly potent drugs brought in by Mexican cartels. As a result, families fracture, and death occurs due to drug-related violence and addiction.

The leech-like influence paints the dark reality inflicted upon our cities by the cartel members who have established operations in our urban centers: Law enforcement battles tirelessly against these pending threats. But the challenges loom large—cartels adapt, exploit loopholes, and operate across international borders. While efforts persist, it’s evident that a multi-faceted approach is imperative to stop this wave of urban infiltration.

According to the CDC, in 2020, the rate of deaths involving synthetic opioids, which includes fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol, was higher in urban counties (18.3) than in rural counties (14.3). Additionally, compared to rural counties, urban counties had higher drug overdose death rates in 23 states and lower rates in 8 states in 2020.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels use multi-city distribution networks, violent local street gangs, and individual dealers across the United States to flood American communities with fentanyl and methamphetamine, drive addiction, fuel violence, and kill Americans.

It’s not solely a law enforcement issue; it’s a call for comprehensive solutions. We must engage communities, enact strategic policy reforms, and foster international cooperation.

With the disingenuous—and often deadly—“help” from cartels, the influx of migrants places additional strain on local resources. Cartels exploit this strain on resources by taking advantage of gaps in institutional support.

At a facility in Pecos, Texas, local officials voiced concerns about a federal childcare facility for unaccompanied minors, causing the population of the rural city to grow by 40% while the location is operational. Other concerns for city officials included a loss in tax revenue not reimbursed by federal agencies. City officials told CBS7 they received only “partial information” when the facility quietly continued to expand in 2022. City officials raised numerous concerns about the facility placing a strain on finite and already strained local resources.

As concerned citizens, as members of these affected urban landscapes, we must make our voices heard against these criminals.

Our communities deserve safety, prosperity, and hope, not the darkness cast by criminal enterprises. Let us rally, let us demand action, and let us reclaim our urban communities from the grips of these cartels by civically engaging with organizations like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and our elected officials in support of border reform and stricter penalties on convicted cartel members.

Together, it’s time to act for the sake of our cities, our families, and the safety of our future.