Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Adam Schiff
Date: May 9, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I rise to oppose the gentleman's amendment. Turtle-excluder devices are already required in other shrimp trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic to reduce sea turtle bycatch.

In many cases, fishermen have reported actually preferring the use of TEDs in their trawl nets because when they are used properly, TEDs allow up to 98 percent of turtles to escape from trawl nets while retaining up to 97 percent of target shrimp catch. TEDs also provide other economic benefits to fishermen. Again, when installed properly, they can prevent other species bycatch and unwanted marine debris from entering the trawl nets, thereby increasing shrimp catch efficiency and the quality of their shrimp catch.

TEDs can also cut down on unwanted debris which can damage and increase the drag in fishing nets, causing fishermen to incur other costs. At this stage, NMFS is merely proposing this rule and will provide ample opportunity for public comment, including public meetings before any final regulation is in place; and, therefore, I urge defeat of the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment, which provides that none of the funds in the SCAAP program can be used in contravention of existing law.

This amendment is like several others we've considered today that simply say either the obvious, which is, Federal funds can't be used in violation of Federal law, in which case the amendment is unnecessary and accomplishes nothing; or, the amendment seeks to go beyond existing law and set new policy, in which case the policy that it would set is one that is disadvantageous to States and local law enforcement.

State and local community safety policies prioritize budgetary and law enforcement resources according to community needs while still permitting Federal immigration enforcement to take place. In many cases, such local laws support community safety by encouraging citizens who are crime victims or witnesses to come forward and work with police regardless of their immigration status.

These local policies don't interfere with Federal enforcement. In fact, a 2007 Justice Department audit of such laws found that in each instance where cities were so-called ``sanctuary cities,'' the local policy either didn't preclude cooperation with ICE, or else included a policy to the effect that those agencies and officers must assist ICE or share information with ICE as required by Federal law. That year, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff testified before Congress:

I'm not aware of any city, although I may be wrong, that actually interferes with our ability to enforce the law.

The amendment, if it went beyond the mere statement that you can't spend Federal funds in contravention of Federal law, might deny funding to already cash-strapped police departments.

For these reasons, we urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment, and I want to share a slightly different perspective on it.

I served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles for 6 years. In 1987, when I started in the office, the office had a guideline where we wouldn't take a case for prosecution involving less than a kilo of cocaine. Now, that didn't mean that it didn't get prosecuted. It did mean that it was referred to the district attorney's office, but we just didn't have the resources to go after every cocaine case involving less than a kilogram. A couple of years later into my tenure in that office, we had to raise the guideline to 5 kilograms because we had so many 1 kilogram cases, and we couldn't even handle those prosecutions.

I don't know what the policy is now, whether it's 10 kilograms or 20 kilograms, but the reality is we have very finite resources within the Justice Department to prosecute drug cases. Then, of course, the funds for drug prosecutions have to compete with the funds for terrorism cases and carjacking cases and bank robberies and T-Chek thefts or whatnot. We are in a limited resource world, and I don't think it's a good use of our Federal law enforcement resources to be prosecuting medical marijuana cases in States that have legalized medical marijuana. On the priority list of Federal law enforcement priorities, that ought to be near the very bottom.

At a time when we can't even keep up with the more serious narcotics cases and when we have so many other unmet needs in the Justice Department, this is not where we should be putting our resources, and I urge support for the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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