Press Releases

Washington, DC – The Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus appropriations bill approved by the Senate today includes two key provisions introduce by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).  Senator Feinstein’s priorities in the Commerce-Justice-Science section of the FY’08 Omnibus include:

  • A provision to restore the residency requirement for sitting U.S. Attorneys.  It requires that U.S. Attorneys reside in the district they are appointed, and assistant United States attorneys reside in the district for which they are appointed or within 25 miles thereof; and
  • $410 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which provides federal payments to state and local governments that have incurred costs for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens.

United States Attorney Local Residency Restoration Act

First, the Omnibus includes the “United States Attorney Local Residency Restoration Act” language, which reverses a little-known provision inserted by the Department of Justice into last year’s PATRIOT Act reauthorization.  The provision changed current law to allow U.S. attorneys to live outside of their districts if the Attorney General assigns them dual or additional responsibilities.

Department of Justice officials have acknowledged that the residency provision was inserted into the PATRIOT Act to allow U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer to live in Washington, D.C. and continue to serve as both the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for Montana.  He has since assumed the position of Acting Associate Attorney General, the number three position at the Department of Justice. 
 
“U.S. Attorneys serve the residents of their district.  The position requires a huge commitment, and each district deserves a highly-qualified U.S. Attorney focused on the needs of the local area and fighting crime and terrorism in their state,” Senator Feinstein said.  “U.S. Attorneys cannot serve their districts adequately if they are also working full-time in Washington, D.C.  This measure will ensure that U.S. Attorneys are focused on the prosecutorial needs of their districts, not on the needs of the Administration.”

U.S. Attorney Mercer served a full-time position in Washington D.C. for nearly two years while still maintaining the position of U.S. Attorney for Montana.   And as a result of his obligations in Washington, he was in his state only for three or four days a month. 

In May 2007, when Senator Feinstein first introduced the measure, several other U.S. Attorneys were serving full-time positions in Washington while retaining their jobs in their home-states, including:  

  • Michael J. Sullivan, the U.S. attorney in Boston, has been serving as the Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington for the past six months;
  • Mary Beth Buchanan, U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, is also the acting director of the Office of Violence Against Women, and prior to that she served as Director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys; and
  • Kevin O'Connor, U.S. attorney in Connecticut, has served two major dual positions in Washington during his tenure as U.S. attorney, first as Associate Deputy Attorney General coordinating anti-gang policies (January to April 2007) and then as Chief of Staff to the Attorney General (April to November 2007).

State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP)

Second, the Omnibus Appropriations bill includes $410 million in funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).  This vital program provides federal payments to states and localities that incurred correctional officer salary costs for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens with at least one felony or two misdemeanor convictions for violations of state or local law, and incarcerated for at least four consecutive days during the reporting period.

The $410 million included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill is $40 million more than what was included in FY 2008 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill approved by the Senate in October.  It is also an $11 million increase over the $399 million appropriated for SCAAP in 2007.

“Securing our borders is a federal responsibility, yet states are often forced to pay the high price for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens.  It costs California more than $715 million a year to house these aliens,” Senator Feinstein said.  “I believe the federal government should reimburse these costs, and SCAAP is the only program set up to do so.   The money approved in this bill is clearly well short of what is needed.   But it is a help, and I will continue to fight to ensure that the federal government provides California with reimbursements it deserves for incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens.”

California has an estimated 2.5 million undocumented people living in the state.  California also has the largest criminal alien population in the country and so California bears the brunt of housing these criminal aliens.

The percentage of deportable criminal aliens in the California State prison system is 11.8 percent of the total inmate population of approximately 172,000.  The cost to house an inmate in the California State prison system is $35,212 per year.  It costs California over $715 million per year to house approximately 20,296 deportable criminal alien inmates. 

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