The Congressional Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE), co-chaired by U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), hosted an autism briefing on Capitol Hill April 23 entitled the "Autism and the Aging Out Crisis" to highlight the need for increased federal support for improved transition services for the youth and young adults with autism and their families.
“Every year 50,000 young people on the autism spectrum transition into adulthood and are in the process of losing access to the vital educational, therapeutic and other services which enable them to live full, independent and successful lives,” said Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee that oversees global health. “Individuals with autism in the aging out generation find themselves entering into a system unprepared to meet their needs, and as a result face shrinking opportunities—and in many cases even regression.”
The event featured experts on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and transition planning, including: Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) representative Dr. Anthony Antosh; Director of the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College (UCEDD), and; self-advocates including Jonathan Kratchman, a high school senior from Hamilton, N.J. who is an intern Smith’s district office.
About 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has been identified with ASD, according to the most recent estimates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released in 2014. In Smith’s home state of New Jersey, 1 in every 45 children has ASD, the highest rate in the study. Internationally, it is estimated that 67 million individuals are on the spectrum.
“High school students are given services and supports to help prepare them for young adulthood. However, when they graduate, they face a support cliff—their services end and limited options remain available to continue development,” Smith continued. Click here to read Smith’s floor remarks on the Congressional Record.
Smith’s initial involvement with autism came in 1998, when a Brick Township, N.J. couple who had two children with autism approached him with fears that an autism cluster existed in their community. The meeting led Smith to request that the federal government conduct an investigation into a possible autism cluster in Brick. The investigation, one of the first federal studies on autism, not only showed higher rates of autism in Brick but also demonstrated that rate was not an isolated case, but a window to a nationwide phenomenon.
He then authored and shepherded into law the landmark 2000 Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research and Epidemiology Act (Title I of the Children’s Health Act, PL 106-310). He also authored two other autism laws—the 2011 Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, (Public Law 112-32), and the 2014 Autism CARES Act (PL 113-157)—which combine to build on and expand the critical research, services and supports for families impacted by ASD.
Smith is now working to bring the lessons learned in the U.S. to the global stage—where studies in Asia, Europe, and North America indicate that an average of about 1 percent of the population has ASD. Smith has chaired two hearings on the global impact of autism, and in the 113th Congress, he introduced HR 4631–the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act, and H.R.3054–the Global Autism Assistance Act. The latter bill is now part of HR 1468–the Global Brain Health Act of 2015, introduced in the current 114th Congress.
Smith’s most recent law authorized $1.3 billion over five years, including $22 million for the Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research Program; $48 million for Autism Education, Early Detection, and Intervention, and; $190 million for hundreds of Research Grants at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and for the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.Read More
“The Armenian genocide is the only genocide of the 20th century in which a nation that was decimated by genocide has been subject to the ongoing outrage of a massive campaign of genocide denial, openly sustained by state authority,” said Smith, who called Thursday afternoon’s hearing and chaired Congress’s first-ever hearing on the Armenian genocide in 2000. “Sadly, the Turkish government has driven this campaign of denial, and has done so over a course of decades.”
Smith continued, “I must respond to President Obama. On Tuesday his aides met with Armenian leaders and made it clear that once again he will not recognize the Armenian genocide. This is in direct contradiction to the promises he made before becoming president—and in order to become president.
“While a candidate, in 2008 the President made passionate statements in support of genocide recognition… these are beautiful words which echo hollowly today,” Smith said. “The president’s abandonment of this commitment is unconscionable and cynical. With Germany and the EU lining up to do the right thing, our government needs to do likewise. Sadly, after the President’s powerful promise, he is following, not leading–or rather, we are not even following.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening statement. Or click here to watch video.
Witnesses testifying at the hearing focused on the sustained campaign of the Turkish government to deny the Armenian genocide and its impact on Armenian-Turkish relations and foreign policy in the region.
“Turkey’s denialism of its past and making it an essential part of its foreign policy is not simply a moral abomination; it represents a threat to democracy, stability and security, not only in Turkey but in the region too,” testified Dr. Taner Akçam, a Turkish scholar who holds the chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University. “The refusal [of the U.S.] to recognize past injustices is fundamentally undemocratic and contributes to the destabilization of Turkey and the region. How can the United States, which prides itself on its exceptionalism in supporting liberal values and human rights at home and across the world, justify a position at odds with its own democratic values?”
“Far too often, over the past several decades, under Turkey's arm-twisting here in Washington, DC, official discussions of the Armenian genocide were framed in denialist terms, on the basis of Ankara's artificially contrived ‘debate’ about whether there was an Armenian Genocide,” said Kenneth Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America. “Turkey's denial of truth and justice for the Armenian genocide remains the central issue between Turks and Armenians, the one that must be openly acknowledged, honestly discussed, and fairly resolved for there to be real, sustained progress in relations between these two nations.”
“How did denial start and how did it last as long as it has? The answer is simple—successive Turkish governments have used the issue to instill fear, promote racism, distract their population from the truth, and avoid progress,” said Van Krikorian, co-chairman of the board of trustees of the Armenian Assembly of America. “Having re-written their own history, they are now afraid to tell the truth as they will lose votes and risk power. Tragically, this pattern has found accomplices, as Turkish leaders have openly threatened countries which do not deny the Armenian genocide. Those who bend to bullying continue to be bullied. Those who do not, show honor and backbone.”
Additional witnesses gave or submitted testimony at the hearing, included Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, visiting associate professor of conflict resolution at Tufts University, Karine Shnorhokian, of Teaneck, N.J., representative of the Genocide Education Project, and Dale Daniels, Executive Director, Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education, Brookdale Community College.
“At Chhange we have taught about the Armenian Genocide to students for over 30 years,” Daniels stated. “Why the Armenian Genocide? Could we just teach about the Holocaust? Or the1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda? We do, but history doesn’t speak kindly about the American response to these genocides. Former President Clinton himself has called the failure to intervene in Rwanda one of his biggest regrets. The history of the Armenian Genocide provides strong examples of American citizens who stood up and ensured that the reports of murder, massacre, atrocities were known.” Click here to read Daniels testimony.
Video of the hearing can be viewed here, however, the start of hearing was delayed by unanticipated floor votes. Advance video to approximately the 35-minute mark. The hearing lasted about 90 minutes.
Bipartisan legislation to take on global hunger and help the world’s poorest countries develop better agricultural practices has been introduced by Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House panel that oversees global health initiatives. The legislation, the Global Food Security Act of 2015 (H.R. 1567), is designed to help prevent starvation and famine, and reduce hunger and malnutrition by enabling countries to feed their own people.
“In essence, it is a program that teaches a man to fish, instead of giving man a fish. As such it is economical in the long run, and should lead to a reduction in the amount of money we spend on emergency food aid,” said Chairman Smith, who has spearheaded similar U.S. international health and nutritional initiatives throughout his career, dating back to legislation he successfully offered in 1985 to restore and double the commitment to the then Child Survival Fund program, which helped protect children who would otherwise die from preventable, curable diseases. “This is important legislation which will help provide a long-term solution to global hunger by authorizing the existing national food security program coordinated by USAID commonly known as Feed the Future. This program strengthens nutrition, especially for children during that critical first 1000 day-window, from conception to the child’s second birthday, and also teaches small-scale farmers techniques to increase agricultural yield, thereby helping nations achieve food security, something that is in the national security interest of the United States as well.”
Smith is joined by original co-sponsors Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Karen Bass (D-CA), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), David G. Reichert (R-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and James P. McGovern (D-MA). The co-sponsors are well-known leaders in the fight against global hunger and malnutrition, as well as champions of small-scale producers’ efforts to lift themselves out of poverty.
“Our aid is leveraged with that of other countries, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and – especially – faith-based organizations, whose great work on the ground in so many different countries impacts so many lives.” Click here to read Rep. Smith’s statement on committee passage of HR 1567.
The program’s goals are to build or rebuild local capacity and sustainability, linking local entrepreneurs to the local and regional economy. It also focuses on nutrition programs during the first 1000 days of life, from conception to the child’s second birthday.
In the past year, Feed the Future has helped seven million farmers across the globe increase harvests, resulting in improved nutrition for 12.5 million children. To give one example, in Ethiopia stunting rates were driven down by nine percent in just three years, resulting in roughly 160,000 fewer children suffering from malnutrition.
“Feed the Future also helps small farmers, many of whom are women, so that they are better able to earn income to support their families,” Smith said.
The legislation seeks to capture and sustain the successes the U.S. government is already achieving through its Feed the Future Initiative. Drawing on resources and expertise from 11 federal agencies, Feed the Future is investing in national agricultural investment strategies and is helping many countries in need, including 19 focus countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, transform their agricultural sectors and sustainably produce enough nutritious food to feed their people.
Over 50 non-governmental, faith-based and university organizations have signed on to a statement of support of the Smith legislation. These include American Jewish World Services, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Bread for the World, Food for the Hungry, InterAction, Lutheran World Relief, Salesian Missions and World Vision.
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) was honored by The Healey International Relief Foundation (HIRF) and Capital Area Reach Program (Capital Reach) for improving the lives and making significant contributions to the people of Africa and in particular Sierra Leone.
The Awards Reception was held on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C. at the Liaison Hotel Rooftop. Both HIRF and Capital Reach conduct humanitarian work in Sierra Leone. The ongoing Ebola crisis has made the groups work urgent and all funds raised from the event will go towards HIRF’s project to rebuild health clinics in Sierra Leone and Capital Reach’s effort to build a much-needed school in Lunsar, Sierra Leone.
Smith received the Humanitarian Impact Award in Healthcare, which recognizes outstanding individuals who dedicate their time to improve the life of individuals and families in Africa and whose accomplishments are consistent with the goals of the Lumberton, N.J.-based Healey Foundation. The group selects a recipient based on humanitarian service defined as beyond the responsibilities of one’s profession, that has helped to improve the welfare of humankind, including significant contributions benefiting Africa.
“It has been my honor to have been able to help set policy for U.S. Government humanitarian response to the crises facing African countries,” said Smith, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of its Africa and global health subcommittee, who has worked on many initiatives to assist Africa including the Ebola crisis response and authored H.R. 5710, the Ebola Emergency Response Act.. “For more than 30 years, I have worked with civil society organizations, governments and private sector firms on humanitarian response. Together, we have met challenges ranging from famine–man-made and otherwise, to conflict-caused deprivation to the refusal by governments or rebel groups to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need.”
The theme of the event was “Rebuilding Sierra Leone’s health care system. Bright futures are built on healthy foundations.” This effort began with the recent opening of the first of what is planned to be 30 health care clinics built by the Healey Foundation to serve vulnerable rural populations throughout the country. The ribbon-cutting for the HIRF’s health clinic in St. Stephen’s Amputee Village was held on March 21 in Newton, Sierra Leone. The clinic will provide much needed primary care to the village of 300 people and the surrounding population of 24,000 located in the Western region of Sierra Leone 24 miles east of Freetown, which was considered an “Ebola hot zone.”
The reception was hosted by Taylor Kinzler, Miss Massachusetts 2012, and featured a musical performance by Sierra Leone singer Daddy Rhymes. Event partners who have made this reception possible are the Viking Yacht Company in New Gretna N.J., McGuireWoods, Tzu Chi Foundation and Brother's Brother Foundation. Sen. Tom Harkin and Mrs. Philomena Yumkella were also honored at the event.
Smith gave recognition to the Healey Foundation, Capital Reach and the other honorees, and thanked everyone who works to improve the future of the continent.
“You who undertake the job of serving the needs of Africans who require humanitarian assistance deserve all the kudos that come your way,” Smith said. “It is, therefore, altogether appropriate that you honor those who have given of their time, talent and treasure to help others in need. I, too, am certainly honored with this award, and promise to continue to work in the House Africa Subcommittee for a better future for Africa.”
Smith has traveled to such troubled African hot spots as Darfur and Nigeria to promote human rights. He held three hearing on the Ebola threat to West Africa, in Liberia and Sierra Leone—where more than two-thirds of all Ebola cases and over three-quarters of all Ebola-related deaths have been reported. He ordered an emergency congressional hearing in August 2014 featuring Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, as well as the U.S. State Department, and USAID. He held a second hearing on Sept. 17, 2014, featuring the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID, and the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. A third Ebola hearing was held Nov. 18.
Smith has also held numerous hearings on health threats around the world, including hearings on tropical diseases earlier this month and in June 2013 and another on “Superbugs” in April 2013.
A long-time advocate for peace, human rights and progress in Africa, Smith authored HR 5656, “The Global Food Security Act,” to help prevent starvation and famine, and reduce hunger and malnutrition by enabling countries to feed their own people. The House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation in December to address global hunger and help the world’s poorest countries develop better agriculture. The measure was not passed by the Senate.
Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, announced a hearing entitled "A Century of Denial: The Armenian Genocide and the Ongoing Quest for Justice.”
The hearing will be held Thursday, April 23, at 1:30 at the Rayburn House Office Building in Room 2175.
On the 100th anniversary of the first genocide of the modern era, Armenians are still fighting for recognition of the genocidal nature of the massacres that began in 1915 and resulted in the death of as many as 1.5 million people. The government of Turkey continues to deny the genocide and actively punishes those who recognize it.In fact, Smith called President Obama himself to recognize the genocide.
“I appeal to the President to recognize the genocide of the Armenians. On the centenary of this tragedy we should join the German government and Pope Francis in speaking this word of truth,” said Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Helsinki Commission and the House global human rights subcommittee, ahead of the hearing. “I also appeal to the Turkish government to recognize the genocide and issue a genuine apology. As mass atrocities unfold in Syria and Iraq, the world needs Turkey to engage constructively with its neighbors. The Turkish government can do this only after it honestly faces its own past.”
The hearing will examine denialism by the Government of Turkey and the decades-long effort to seek accountability. The hearing will also provide an opportunity to assess potential countercurrents in Turkish society that could move the Government of Turkey toward recognition, and explore what the United States and other countries can do to help bring about recognition and eventually, reconciliation.
The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:
Dr. Taner Akçam, Professor of History, Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies, Clark University
Mr. Kenneth V. Hachikian, Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America
Mr. Van Z. Krikorian, Co-Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Armenian Assembly of America
Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Visiting Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution, The Fletcher School, Tufts University
Additional witnesses may be added.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.Read More
The U.S. State Department’s main effort to combat human trafficking was the main focus of a hearing held today by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees global human rights issues, and author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), a law which mandates the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).
The hearing, dubbed “Accountability and Transformation: Tier Rankings in the Fight Against Human Trafficking,” was held before the House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee on global human rights. Smith disputed China’s 2014 upgrade from Tier 3 to the Tier 2 Watch List, and discussed numerous human trafficking issues, including recent media reports of Burmese slaves on fishing boats.
Smith stated his concerns that China fooled the State Department—which seemed to believe that China was abolishing its re-education through labor camps, rather than simply renaming the camps and continuing the practice.
“The Congressional-Executive China Commission reported that in 2013, Chinese authorities increasingly used other forms of arbitrary and administrative detention such as Legal Education Centers, Custody and Education Centers, ‘black jails,’ and compulsory drug detoxification centers,” said Smith., “Moreover, the Commission reported that in November 2014, the Deputy Director of China’s Ministry of Justice said at a press conference that the ‘vast majority’ of China’s [reeducation through labor] facilities have been converted to compulsory drug detox centers. The China Commission believes that these compulsory drug detox centers force detainees to do labor, as do the Custody and Education Centers. If true—and I believe it is—then the Chinese government is directly involved in human trafficking and profiting from it.”
The 2015 TIP report currently being finalized and expected to be released soon was discussed by witnesses Mark Lagon, President of Freedom House and Former Ambassador-at-Large for Trafficking in Persons Office at the U.S. Department of State; Matt Smith, Executive Director of the human rights group, Fortify Rights; the Rev. Shay Cullen, President/Chief Executive Officer, the PREDA (People’s Recovery, Empowerment and Developmental Assistance) Foundation, an organization dedicated to freeing children and women from sexual slavery in the Philippines.
Ambassador Lagon said the TIP Report’s tier rankings, the TVPA and its reauthorizations have made a difference.
“Seriously researched and credible reports assessing the performance of governments in protecting the dignity of those living and working in their borders have a demonstrable impact,” Lagon said. “The history of the TIP Report shows it has focused the minds of governments on change. Instead of stigma falling upon the victims of human trafficking, including in migrant labor and the sex industry, it places constructive stigma on those governments not doing enough to prevent their victimization, to assist them, and to hold their tormenters to account. Freedom House knows that well-documented reports giving grades to nations (including the United States and other Western states), like its Freedom in the World survey has for 43 years, gets the attention of authorities.” Click here to read Lagon’s testimony.
Rev. Cullen testified that some of these small children are victims of human trafficking brought into the city to beg for organized criminal syndicates or to be exploited as drug couriers.
“The human trafficking of youth and children for sexual exploitation some as young as 18 months old to 14-year-old are procured for pedophiles, video making and for commercial sexual exploitation in sex bars where they are exploited by sex tourists some being U.S. Nationals,” Cullen said. Click here to read Cullen’s testimony.
Matt Smith of Fortify Rights said the annual TIP Report and tier-ranking system demonstrates how impactful legislation can contribute to the realization of fundamental human rights worldwide.
“Officials from governments throughout Southeast Asia have told us it is a priority for them to combat human trafficking as a direct result of the annual TIP report and tier-ranking system. This is a monumental achievement,” Matt Smith said. Click here to read his statement.
“We also need to look at ourselves, and ask too whether we are complicit in abetting trafficking, perhaps unwittingly,” Smith said, referencing an Associated Press investigation that documented Thai boats picking-up seafood in Indonesia that is caught by Burmese slaves who, when not at sea, are kept in cages on remote Indonesian islands. The seafood is believed to have been taken back to Thai ports, processed and ultimately bought by unknowing consumers around the world, including in the U.S.
“Much of the tainted seafood may have entered the supply chain to reach the shelves of American grocery stores and, through vendors such as Sysco, have landed on the plates of our service men and women,” Smith said.
Smith directly addressed those who think that the American TIP reports embarrasses allies and undercuts efforts to cultivate friendly ties around the globe.
“Two of our closest allies, Israel and South Korea, at one point were both on Tier 3, the worst rank,” Smith said. “I remember meeting with their Ambassadors who had files demonstrating to all of us and anyone who would listen the measures they were taking to mitigate this terrible crime. And both of those countries got off Tier 3 when they backed words with substantive action. Rather than alienating them, the exercise underscored that friends watch out for each other, and that we must call upon our friends to live up to the high ideals they profess.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening statement.
“Accountability and Transformation: Tier Rankings in the Fight Against Human Trafficking,” is the title of the hearing to be held before the House Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee on global human rights. The 2015 TIP report is being compiled and expected to be released soon.
Who: Members of the House global human rights subcommittee, and witnesses:
When: Wednesday, April 22 at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2200 (second floor)
Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) talked about a bill that would give Congress a voice on any nuclear agreement with Iran, the fight against ISIS* and Boko Haram, and the stalemate over human trafficking legislation.* The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a militant group that has called itself the Islamic State.
2373 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Elected in 1980, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Robbinsville, N.J.) is currently in his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves residents in the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey. Smith, 60, currently serves as a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is chairman of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. In 2011-2012 he chaired both the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also serves as “Special Representative” on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Veterans Committee (two terms) and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Africa.
Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses (working groups) including the Pro-life (31 years), Autism (15 years), Alzheimer’s (13 years), Lyme Disease (nineyears), Spina Bifida (nine years), Human Trafficking (nine years), Refugees (nine years), and Combating Anti-Semitism caucuses, and serves on caucuses on Bosnia, Uganda and Vietnam.
According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, as of January 2014 Smith ranks fourth among all 435 Members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws authored.
He is the author of America’s three landmark anti-human trafficking laws including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a comprehensive law designed to prevent modern-day slavery, protect victims, and enhance civil and criminal penalties against traffickers, as well as more than a dozen veterans health, education and homeless benefits laws, and laws to boost embassy security, promote democracy, religious freedom, and health care.
Smith is the author of the $265 million Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 which established a nationwide program for ethical research and treatment using umbilical cord blood and bone marrow cells. That landmark law was reauthorized in September 2010 for another five years.
In October 2011, Smith’s bill, HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011, was signed into law (Public Law PL112-32), a follow-up to his Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE) of 2000.
A lifelong New Jerseyan, Congressman Smith graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in business administration. Prior to being elected to Congress, he helped run a small business– his family’s wholesale sporting goods corporation. He is also the former Executive Director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee.
The congressman is married to his wife of 35 years, Marie, and they have four grown children.