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Preserving Foreign Criminal Assets for Forfeiture Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. CHU. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the Preserving Foreign Criminal Assets for Forfeiture Act of 2010 will ensure that U.S. courts can freeze assets while foreign legal proceedings are pending. This fix permits Federal law enforcement to assist foreign governments without waiting for a final judgment in a foreign court.

I want to tell you a story that highlights the importance of this legislation. Years ago, I met a bright young man named Bobby Salcedo, who grew up in my district it in El Monte, California. What struck me right away was Bobby's dedication to improving the lives of children and residents of his community. It was that dedication that gave him his incredible energy and passion to achieve as much as he did.

He was an elected member of the El Monte School District. He returned to his alma mater, Mountain View High School, to become its assistant principal, and was studying for his doctorate in education at UCLA.

Aside from his caring, selfless nature, Bobby was very intelligent, driven, and charismatic. It was clear to everyone who knew him that he was going somewhere. He was our rising star.

A year ago, Bobby traveled to Gomez Palacio in the Mexican state of Durango to visit his wife's family for the holidays. On New Year's Eve, he was out with family and friends at a local restaurant when gunmen burst in and dragged Bobby, along with five other men, out of the restaurant at gunpoint. They were then each shot to death execution-style. The next day, all six bodies were found dumped in a ditch. Bobby was only 33 years old.

After the investigation began, it was confirmed that none of the six murder victims were connected to the drug trade in any way. Bobby and the others were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their deaths exemplify a growing number of innocent bystanders who are becoming victimized in the cartel violence in Mexico.

It had seemed as though the situation could not get worse. However, only weeks after Bobby was so brutally murdered, the lead state investigator in his case was also shot dead.

For me and thousands of others, Bobby's death is a symbol for both of our countries that progress for peace in Mexico must be made. We cannot allow the death of innocent bystanders or American citizens to pass without consequences. Until there is true accountability for the violence, there is little incentive for the drug lords to keep the peace.

In my conversations with law enforcement, I hear the same thing over and over again. In order to stop this wave of violence on the border and protect both American and Mexican citizens, we must hit the cartels where it hurts the most--their bank accounts and property, which are often located in the United States. So when I heard that Federal courts had severely limited law enforcement's ability to freeze foreign assets in the United States at the request of foreign governments, I had to act.

In 2000, Congress passed the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, which authorized Federal courts to assist foreign nations by freezing assets located in the United States while individuals stood trial in foreign courts. This process is consistent with our treaty obligations and, under those same international agreements, foreign courts will offer the United States similar assistance with assets located overseas.

This law is an important tool to fight organized crime, money laundering, and drug trafficking. It allows the U.S. to assist foreign governments in cutting the money supply to international criminal organizations.

Earlier this year, however, Federal courts interpreted the statute to apply only after a final decision has been reached in a foreign court proceeding. After the decision, law enforcement had no way to prevent illicit property from being moved out of our grasp before it was too late.

In the past few months, our government has been unable to protect more than $550 million that had been identified for forfeiture by foreign governments. This money will remain a continuing resource for criminal organizations, allowing them to fund extensive additional criminal activity.

The bill we are considering today includes due process protections similar to those used for restraining orders in anticipation of domestic forfeiture judgments. It also requires the courts to verify that the relevant foreign tribunal observes due process protections, has subject matter jurisdiction, and is not acting as a result of fraud.

This is just one small step to ensure that international criminal organizations like the cartels that murdered Bobby Salcedo have fewer resources to evade prosecution. It is for Bobby, his family, and the thousands of others who have been affected by cartel violence around the world that I fought to pass this important legislation.

I thank the chairman of the Judiciary Committee for allowing this bill to come to the floor so quickly, and I want to recognize the steadfast bipartisan support of my friend, Judge Ted Poe, and our colleagues in the Senate, Senators Whitehouse and Cornyn.

This bill has the support of the Department of Justice, which is eager to use this tool to protect our borders and make the world a safer place. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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