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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Chairman, first let me just say how much I appreciate the opportunity to work with the chairman, and I appreciate his work both when we worked together in the leadership of the legislative branch appropriations subcommittee and also to express appreciation for his commitment to increasing the amount of funds available to pursue child exploitation in this bill, and for your commitment in protecting children. Both of us being parents of 8- and 13-year-olds, I have a particular appreciation for this.

I rise to ask for my colleagues' support for an amendment to protect what we've been talking about here this evening, our most vulnerable constituents, our children.

My amendment would fence off $20 million in funds through ICE, Homeland Security Investigations, Cyber Crimes Center, for the purposes of child exploitation prevention and interdiction.

There is no question that our children need our support now more than ever. With the proliferation of the Internet and wireless technology, the spread of child pornography on line must be addressed aggressively now. We don't have a moment or an opportunity to waste.

The Department of Justice estimates that at any moment, there are more than 1 million pornographic images of children on the Internet, with an additional 200 images being posted every day. And more than one-third of the world's pedophiles involved in organized pornography rings worldwide live in the United States.

The Internet allows these images to be disseminated indefinitely, victimizing that child victim again and again with each click of the mouse. Because let's not forget that these are not just heinous images--they are crime scene photos. Every face in those photographs is the face of a child who needs our support in order to escape a living hell of constant abuse and exploitation.

Since the 1970s, before we even had a child pornography statute, ICE, which
was then called the U.S. Customs Service, was the leader in the fight to protect our children. That is still true today. As recently as 2009, ICE was responsible for 52 percent of cases prosecuted for receipt or distribution of child pornography and 90 percent of cases prosecuted for child sex tourism.

This is in addition to hundreds of arrests every year and thousands of children rescued to date. Their efforts are second to none, and I know they will put these resources to good use. But for every child rescued, hundreds more remain trapped in a current of abuse, the horrors of which none of us can truly imagine. And we need the absolute best personnel going into the fight to rescue these children.

That's why it's my hope that some of these funds will be used to employ our wounded warriors, in addition to the experienced agents already fighting these battles. Our armed services have already protected us abroad, so naturally our veterans are a perfect choice to protect our most precious resources here at home. In fact, retired Army Master Sergeant Rich Robertson is already fighting child exploitation at the ICE field office in Tennessee. In his words, ``Who better to hunt child predators than someone who's already hunted men?''

I'm enthusiastic about this initiative because I know that the immense skills and motivation returning servicemen and -women possess could be the key to our most successful affront on child exploitation yet. Child predators won't stand a chance.

By harnessing the abilities of our wounded warriors, we not only ensure that their skills, dedication, and drive are put to good use back at home, we give them the most dignified thank you of all, a job that truly makes a difference.

So let me be clear: With the passage of this amendment, we would be putting predators on notice. Their reign of terror is coming to an end. You can bet on it. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in committing to fight until every American child can live free from terror and exploitation, and support this important amendment, which, Mr. Chairman, I have at the desk, which I should have started with. So thank you very much.

I want to also add, Mr. Chairman, that I support my colleague from California's amendment to increase the funds available to ICE for the purpose of fighting child exploitation by reducing the funds available for immigration detention and removal operations, which in this bill is unnecessarily increased above the President's request.

I thank the chairman and my colleagues' indulgence for doing this backwards.

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