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US Attorney Laura Duffy Discusses Goals For Southern District

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Video published December 3, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: Laura Duffy, United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, sits down with Reporter Alison St. John for an in-depth interview about her goals for the region, her recent investigations of Mexican drug cartels, and Somali terror suspects in San Diego.

Laura Duffy, United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, sits down with Reporter Alison St. John for an in-depth interview about her goals for the region, her recent investigations of Mexican drug cartels, and Somali terror suspects in San Diego.

Guests

Alison St. John, KPBS senior metro reporter

Laura Duffy, United States Attorney for the Southern District of California

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

EARLIER THIS WEEK HE SAT DOWN WITH SAN DIEGO ATTORNEY LAURA DUFFY WHO WAS THE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY HERE FOR SEVERAL YEARS. AND AND I READ CALLED THAT ATTORNEY CHERYL LAM WAS FIRED FOR NOT FOLLOWING THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S PRIORITIES. SO WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT DUFFY AND HER RELATIONSHIP TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION?

DUFFY SAYS THAT HER PRIORITIES ARE CLOSE TO THE NATIONAL PRIORITIES. AND SHE SAID IN HER MEETING WITH ERIC HOLDER, AND WITH OBAMA ALSO, THE FEELING SHE HAS IS THAT PRIORITIES ARE REFLECTIVE ARE REFLECTIVE BUT THE HOLDER IS NOT CONTROLLING HER DECISIONS, HE'S TRUSTING HER AND OTHER ATTORNEYS AROUND THE COUNTRY TO USE HER OWN WAY OF IMPLEMENTING THESE PRIORITIES. BUT SHE'S ALSO A VERY GUTSY PROSECUTOR WHO'S NOT AFRAID TO PUT HERSELF AT THE CENTER OF THE ACTION.

THANK YOU ALLISON. LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT HER INTERVIEW WITH LAURA DUFFY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. GOOD MORNING.

YOU HAD QUITE A KEY ROLE IN GOING AFTER THE AREATA CARTEL, AND YOU DESCENDED FROM HELICOPTER TO LET HIM KNOW HE WAS UNDER ARREST. HOW DID THAT FEEL LIKE?

IT WAS INTERESTING FINALLY SITTING DOWN FACE-TO-FACE WITH SOMEBODY WHO I AS YOU SAID HAD BEEN TRACKING FOR YEARS. AND THE REASON I DECIDED TO DO THAT WAS BECAUSE, AS A FEMALE ESPECIALLY IN DEALING WITH HISPANIC MALES, I WANT TO ALWAYS GET MY BUTT IN THE DOOR AND LET THEM KNOW THAT I AM IN CHARGE OF THE CASE AND IT WILL BE ME WHO THEY ARE DEALING WITH. AND, IT WOULD STRATEGICALLY BE A GOOD MOVE TO SEE THAT INDIVIDUAL AS SOON AS I COULD, PARTICULARLY IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT WHERE HE WAS NOT EXPECTING THE ARRIVAL OF THE INDIVIDUAL WHO WOULD BE LEAVING HIS PROSECUTION.

THAT WAS A KEY MOVEMENT. AND NOW YOU ARE FACED WITH AN EVEN MORE DIFFICULT SITUATION WHERE YOU ARE UP AGAINST RIVAL VIOLENT CARTELS VYING FOR DOMINANCE?

WE ARE UP AGAINST RIVAL CARTELS VYING FOR DOMINANCE, BUT I THINK AN IMPORTANT THING THAT HAS SHIFTED, AND IT IS A MEASURE OF SUCCESS THAT WE HAVE BEEN HAVING DESPITE WHAT MIGHT BE VIEWED AS THESE EPISODES OF VERY DRAMATIC AND SPECTACULAR VIOLENCE THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON ALONG THE SOUTHWEST BORDER IS IS THE MAKEUP OF THE CARTELS HAS SHIFTED. IT HAS SHIFTED FROM ITS VERY TRADITIONALLY ORGANIZED HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURED WELL- FINANCED LARGE NETWORKS THAT STRETCH FROM COLOMBIA TO SOUTHERN MEXICO, MEXICO CITY TO THE, TODAY'S RELATIVELY SMALLER, LESS WELL-FINANCED AND LESS ABLE TO OPERATE WITH A KIND KIND OF IMPUNITY THAT THE MAJOR CARTELS OPERATED WITH OVER THE LAST MANY YEARS IN MEXICO.

BUT IT SEEMS LIKE WE SEE NEW DRUG KERNELS POPPING UP. WE SAW ANOTHER ONE JUST LAST WEEK. WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO CONTROL THE SITUATION?

I THINK THE REASON WE ARE SEEING MORE SO IN THE PAST THINGS LIKE DRUG CARTELS COMING UP, IS BECAUSE WE HAVE PUT SUCH AN EMPHASIS ON BUILDING THE INFRASTRUCTURE BETWEEN OUR LAND FORCE OF ENTRY AND ADD OUR LAND FORCE OF ENTRY THAT IT'S LIKE A HOSE. ONCE YOU SQUEEZE IN ONE PLACE, IT BULGES IN ANOTHER. AND CARTELS ARE TAKING COSTLY AND DESPERATE MEASURES TO MOVE THEIR DRUGS IN, AND BUILDING THINGS LIKE THESE TUNNELS. AND THESE ARE NOT ONLY OF DRUG TRAFFICKING SOUTHWEST BORDER CRIMINAL ORGANIZATION ISSUE, THEY ARE A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE AND THEY ARE GETTING OUR TOP FOCUS AND ATTENTION.

DO YOU THINK WE IN THE US ARE DOING ENOUGH TO CURB THE WEAPONS SMUGGLING INTO MEXICO FROM THE UNITED STATES?

I THINK THIS IS A PROBLEM THAT DESERVES GETTING OUR EXTRA ATTENTION. I'M ON THE INTERNAL ADVISORY SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE SOUTHWEST BORDER AND IMMIGRATION ISSUES, AND THIS PARTICULAR TOPIC IS THE ISSUE OF OUR MOST RECENT MEETINGS. WE ARE WORKING TOGETHER AS A COLLECTIVE US ATTORNEY ALONG THE SOUTHWEST BORDER DISTRICTS TO PROPOSE NEW LEGISLATION THAT WE ARE ASKING TO BE SUPPORTED BY THE DEPARTMENT AS FAR AS WEAPONS EXPIRATIONS AND THE CRIMINALIZING OF THAT, BECAUSE THERE'S NOT REALLY A PARTICULAR STATUTE THAT FIT THAT WELL WELL.

ALSO TO GO AFTER STRAW PURCHASES IN THE UNITED STATES WHO ARE SUPPLYING WEAPONS ONE BY ONE. AND IT REALLY IS A ONE BY ONE, TWO BY TWO, 10 BY 10 THAT THESE WEAPONS ARE MAKING THEIR WAY OUT TO THE HANDS OF THE CARTELS.

SO HOW MUCH OF YOUR RESOURCES ARE YOU USING TO ENFORCE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION?

WE HAVE A VERY ROBUST IMMIGRATION PRACTICE IN OUR DISTRICT AS DO THE SOUTHWEST BORDER DISTRICTS THROUGHOUT THE NATION. BUT ONE VERY UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC IS THAT, EVEN THOUGH WE OCCUPY ONLY 141 MILES OF THE SOUTHWEST BORDER BETWEEN MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES OUT OF 82,000-MILE BORDER, 60% OF THE POPULATION ALONG THAT BORDER LIVE IN SAN DIEGO OR IN MEXICO ADJACENT TO THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA. IT HAS VERY LARGE POPULATIONS AND A VERY LARGE MIGRANT ENTRANCE INTO THE DISTRICT.

WHAT WE REALLY FOCUS ON ITS TWO CATEGORIES. ONE IS, IMMIGRANT SMUGGLERS WHO ARE PREYING ON AND EXPOSING ECONOMIC VIOLENCE. IT'S A VERY DANGEROUS SMUGGLING METHOD TO GET THEM IN SO THAT THEY CAN GET WORK. AND WE ARE ALSO FOCUSED ON ON CRIMINAL IMMIGRANTS, INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE SERIOUS CRIMINAL FELONY CONVICTIONS, INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN DEPORTED FROM THE UNITED STATES AND ARE BACK IN THE UNITED STATES THE UNITED STATES LEGALLY. AND WE ARE TRANSITIONING THROUGH OUR DISTRICT, NOT COMING HERE TO FIND JOBS, BUT COMING TO OUR DISTRICT AND COMMITTING CRIMES AS THEY DO SO TO FACILITATE MOVEMENT TO OTHER PLACES IN THE UNITED STATES. THAT IS WHERE WE FOCUS OUR EVERY SQUARE, IT IS LIMITED RESOURCES.

HOW CONCERNED THAT WE SHOULD --SHOULD WE BE THAT PEOPLE WITH TERRORIST INTENTIONS LIKE PEOPLE FROM SOMALIA ARE USING THIS BORDER CROSSING?

I THINK THIS IS A CONCERN WE ALWAYS HAVE TO HAVE ESPECIALLY IN THE POST-9/11 WORLD. OUR BORDERS NORTH AND SOUTH ARE A PRIMARY CONCERN AND IT IS GETTING EXTRA SCRUTINY, THAT PEOPLE ARE ENTERING THE UNITED STATES, WHETHER IT BE THROUGH PORTS OF ENTRY OR IN BETWEEN PORTS OF ENTRY FOR THE POSSIBILITY EXISTS THAT THEY ARE USING THINGS LIKE THESE TUNNELS TO ENTER THE UNITED STATES. SO THAT RECEIVED OUR UTMOST ATTENTION ON RESOURCES.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SPENDING TIME WITH ME.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

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