By David Levinsky, Times staff writer -
Hundreds of civilian workers on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst can expect a boost in pay before the end of the year thanks to the impending correction of a long-standing pay disparity issue.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management plans to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register this week to designate the entire joint base in the higher-paying New York wage area, rather than split between New York and the lower-paying Philadelphia wage area, according to Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th of Hamilton.
About 600 civilian workers on the Fort Dix and McGuire sections of the base will be impacted by the change.
The change follows years of lobbying by Smith and other members of New Jersey's congressional delegation.
Smith, who is the longest-serving member of the state's delegation, cheered the administration's move, saying it was long overdue.
"Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is one installation and the men and women who work there are part of one workforce," Smith said in a statement Monday night. "While long overdue, OPM's move to fix this outdated policy — which pays some workers at a lower rate for the same jobs performed across the base — is a welcomed step and should be implemented expeditiously."
U.S Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Tom MacArthur also applauded the news.
"I am pleased that at the urging of myself and the rest of the New Jersey Congressional delegation, the Office of Personnel Management has agreed to bring long-overdue pay equity to all civilian workers at JBMDL," Menendez said Monday. "This is an important step towards, not only recognizing the hard work and contributions of all civilian employees at the Joint Base, but providing important consistency in policy that further implements the concept of joint basing."
"As a new member of Congress, I repeatedly heard about the importance of ensuring parity for wage grade workers at the base. I have actively and passionately supported this proposal, and it brings me great joy to know that hard working families in South Jersey will finally earn the pay they deserve," MacArthur, R-3rd of Toms River, said. "This is vital for morale and will ensure that military leaders have the flexibility they need in order to successfully run Join Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst."
The wage disparity was caused when the joint base was formed in 2009 from the formerly separate installations of Fort Dix, McGuire Air Force Base and Lakehurst Naval Engineering Station.
Workers at Lakehurst, which is in Ocean County, earn higher salaries or hourly wages because that portion of the base is in the New York pay area. Fort Dix and McGuire employees with the same jobs earn lower pay because their former installations are considered in the Philadelphia area.
The issue was first addressed in 2009 by Smith and other lawmakers, including Menendez; former Rep. Rob Andrews, of the 1st Congressional District; and late Rep. John Adler, of the 3rd District. The delegation pressured the OPM to agree to raise the salaries of civilians working on McGuire and Dix to the higher Lakehurst rate.
But the change was approved for salaried workers. The disparity for the "wage scale" employees remained, despite repeated requests for the administration to make the change for the remaining employees.
Last year, Smith and MacArthur sponsored legislation in the House to mandate that the disparity be corrected on the joint base and any other installation where a similar disparity occurs as a result of an installation merger or reorganization.
MacArthur also added language to the House version of this year's National Defense Authorization Act to fix the disparity, and the entire delegation continued to pressure the OPM.
A key move came in October, when the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee recommended the change. The 11-member committee is charged with studying the federal government's prevailing rate system and issuing recommendations to the Office of Personnel Management about potential changes and other related issues.
More recently, Smith sent a letter to the office's acting director requesting the change.
"These employees work on the same installation — not only as the salaried employees in the higher-pay locality area, but as the wage-grade employees on the former Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station — and they are unfairly paid 7 percent less than their counterparts for the same work," Smith said in the letter. "Again, I urge you to accept FPRAC's recommendations and issue final regulations that fix this outdated policy that pays some employees at a lower rate for the same job performed across the base."
Once the rule proposal is published in the registry this week, there will be a 30-day public comment period before final regulations can be adopted.
Smith's office estimated that the change should be implemented before the end of the year.
This article was originally published on July 19, 2016 in the Burlington County Times and can be found online at http://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/news/local/congressman-pay-disparity-on-joint-base-to-be-corrected-by/article_ab4ae1ba-4d3d-11e6-9bbe-5370f1eb85b0.html
Today, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) announced that his bill, the “Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act,” has earned the bipartisan support of a monumental 301 members of Congress. Smith, co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, introduced HOPE to provide Medicare coverage for a care planning session for patients newly-diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, family caregivers or legal representatives.
“I am greatly encouraged that HOPE has earned the bipartisan support of 301 of my colleagues in the House. 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and countless more family members and loved ones suffer with them. It’s important for them to know that Congress stands with them and I am immensely proud of this strong showing of bipartisan support for Alzheimer’s patients. This is an important marker of congressional will in the effort to provide Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers with the care and resources they deserve, but we must continue to work diligently to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients receive a permanent care planning benefit,” Smith said.
“Upon receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, patients and their families are frequently at a loss for how to effectively plan for the next stage of their lives,” said Smith. “While Medicare currently covers a diagnostic evaluation for beneficiaries, the program then offers little support in terms of next steps. I believe it is vital that patients and caregivers have an individualized plan to cope, information on available resources and a path forward.”
Specifically, the HOPE Act would provide coverage of a care planning session for Medicare beneficiaries where the individual, their caregiver or legal representative will receive information about medical and non-medical treatments to plan for their future care. A similar proposal was recently proposed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a temporary one-year trial.
“It is our moral imperative to support individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. We have an obligation to care for our citizens as they age and we must support them as they struggle to face the challenges of this disease,” said Smith.
Not only would the care planning benefit authorized in the HOPE Act and now also proposed by CMS improve health outcomes for Alzheimer’s patients, it is also expected to mitigate huge, unnecessary costs associated with preventable trips to hospitals and emergency rooms. This is especially important given the state of Medicare and Alzheimer’s place as the most expensive disease in America.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2016 alone, direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $236 billion, with just under half of the costs borne by Medicare. A cost estimate commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association and conducted by Healthsperien, a Washington, D.C.-based health care consulting firm, indicated that as a result of Smith’s legislation, net federal health spending would decrease by $692 million over the 10-year period.
Despite the appeals from South Sudan’s top leaders to end violence by their loyalists, reports of violence and tensions have increased in the past several days, not diminished. In light of this uneasy “peace,” Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, called on the United Nations to expand its mandate and take a more active role in protecting civilians and restoring and maintaining order.
“The U.N. mission in South Sudan was established in 2011 to ease the transition to independence with a mandate to protect civilians and collaborate with the Government of South Sudan to that end, but clearly, its limited mandate has left civilians and peacekeepers vulnerable to attack,” Smith said. “Although the term of the U.N. mission has been repeatedly extended and its personnel increased, the mission’s ability to protect civilians or even its own peacekeepers is far from adequate. The Obama Administration should urgently support a more robust U.N. mandate in South Sudan.”
Around the time of South Sudan’s fifth anniversary of independence on July 9, forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar began clashes over several days that have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced in the capital city of Juba. Civilians were reportedly killed on the way to U.N. protection of civilian sites.
Foreign nationals also have been caught up in the violence, including a U.S. embassy vehicle that was riddled with bullets. More than 900 Americans are in South Sudan, although the State Department said not all Americans in that country are registered. The Administration has sent in nearly 50 military personnel along with aircraft to specifically protect Americans. The U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Juba also was targeted and two Chinese peacekeepers were killed.
State Department reports and other analyses describe ongoing significant ethnic tensions in South Sudan. Additionally, the government military and forces of the former rebels consist of a patchwork of militias that apparently are only tenuously controlled by both Kiir and Machar. The civil conflict between forces loyal to the two leaders that began in December 2013 has thus far claimed the lives of at least 50,000 people and left 2 million civilians displaced. Another five million South Sudanese face severe food shortages.
“Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is one installation and the men and women who work there are part of one workforce,” said Smith, who represents half of the Joint Base and has authored the Joint Base Pay Parity Act. “While long overdue, OPM’s move to fix this outdated policy—which pays some workers at a lower rate for the same jobs performed across the base—is a welcomed step and should be implemented expeditiously.”
The regulations follow an October 15, 2015 recommendation by the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee (FPRAC) to make this change. After six months of inaction on OPM's part, Smith again urged the Acting Director Beth F. Cobert to accept FRAC’s recommendations and issue final regulations that correct this outdated policy in an April 2016 letter.
“Joint basing has been successfully implemented at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst but there remains an outstanding issue of gross unfairness for some employees,” Smith said. “Once this regulation is adopted, roughly 600 civilians on JB MDL will finally receive equally earned pay.”
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) created 12 joint bases, including what is now Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. After the Joint Base was formally established in 2009, Smith and the New Jersey Delegation lobbied OPM to move the McGuire AFB and Fort Dix employees into the New York region to establish parity on the installation. OPM responded by designating the General Schedule employees for better locality pay but this regulation did not include the wage grade employees.
“The Joint Base’s missions are vital to our national security and could not be carried out effectively without the skills of the men and women stationed there, and those working in civilian support roles across the base,” said Smith.
JB-MDL is the largest employer in the region, second only to the State of New Jersey as the largest employer in the Garden State, and contributes $6.9 billion annually to the regional economy.
Before leaving town on Thursday, the Senate passed Kevin and Avonte’s Law, legislation aimed at protecting children with autism and seniors with Alzheimer’s who are prone to engaging in wandering behavior, which tragically can have fatal consequences.
“I’m pleased that the Senate has passed Kevin and Avonte’s Law. This is a step forward in the effort to keep seniors with Alzheimer’s and children with autism safe. I’ll continue to fight for passage of this legislation in the House to ensure this bill is enacted,” said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), author of the companion bill in the House, HR 4919.
Smith said the legislation will reauthorize and expand the existing Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program, to include children with a developmental disability—such as autism—and rename it the “Missing Americans Alert Program.”
“We all empathize with a parent who learns that their child is missing, including and especially when that child has autism or another developmental disability. When children with a disability or seniors with Alzheimer’s do wander, time and training are essential to ensure their safe return,” said Smith, who is co-founder and co-chair of both the Autism Caucus and the Alzheimer’s Disease Task Force in the House.
“My home state of New Jersey has the highest prevalence rate of autism in the country, with 1 in 41 children on the spectrum—a 12 percent increase in the last two years. While wandering safety and prevention programs for children with autism are currently in place and making a positive impact through law enforcement agencies, I’ve heard from constituents that there aren’t enough resources to support these critical programs and that families who need them don’t have access,” Smith continued.
Wandering, which is also referred to as elopement, occurs when an individual leaves a safe area or a caretaker. Wandering is a safety concern for both seniors with Alzheimer’s and children with autism. It is estimated that 60 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s and 49 percent of children with autism have wandered and we know that the results can be devastating: The legislation is named in honor of two boys with autism, Kevin Curtis and Avonte Oquendo, who both wandered from safety and tragically drowned.
The new Missing Americans Alert Program will be used to provide grants to law enforcement agencies, public safety agencies, and non-profit organizations to promote initiatives that will reduce the risk of injury and death relating to the wandering characteristics of some children with autism, as well as individuals with Alzheimer’s. Kevin and Avonte’s Law will reauthorize the program for five years, with an annual funding level of $2 million dollars.
Funding can be used to provide proactive educational programing to prevent wandering such as providing prevention and response information, including online training resources, to families or caretakers of individuals who wander. Additionally, funding can be used to provide education and training to first responders, school personnel, clinicians, and the public in order to recognize and respond to endangered missing individuals and facilitate their rescue and recovery. Funding can also be used for innovative locative technology to facilitate rescue and recovery.
The Senate version of the bill, S. 2614, introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), includes a new provision mandating the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide a report identifying the number of law enforcement agencies that apply for grants, the number that are awarded funding, and the number of individuals who benefit from the program. Smith previously had requested similar information from the Department of Justice.
On the one-year anniversary of the Obama Administration’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, the House of Representatives passed a package of three reinforcing legislative initiatives to prevent the nuclear agreement from further damaging U.S. national security and that of U.S. allies.
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), senior member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a strong supporter of American-Israeli relations, who voted for the package said of the first bill, the “No 2H20 from Iran Act,” (H.R. 5119) “will block the administration from conducting future purchases of material from Iran’s nuclear program.”
Earlier this week the administration confirmed that it had paid the Iranian government approximately $8.6 million dollars for 32 metric tons of heavy water, used in the production of plutonium, in what it said would be a “one-time” transaction to help the Iranians bring their stock of the material below the threshold set by the nuclear deal.
“This bill would prevent our government from spending U.S. taxpayer money to purchase material from Iran’s nuclear program. It seems absurd that such a measure is necessary, but sadly it is so,” said Smith. “By voting to support this Act, we make clear that Iran bears sole responsibility for its compliance with the deal and that it is outrageous that the administration would have U.S. taxpayers pad the coffers of such a wicked regime, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and avowed enemy of our ally Israel.”
Smith also supported the “Iran Accountability Act of 2016,” (H.R. 5631) aimed at imposing strict sanctions on the Iranian government for its continued development of ballistic missile technology, support for terrorism, and flagrant human rights abuses.
“While the Obama administration has bent over backwards in the past year to seek understandings with Iran and cordially induce it to comply with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, this bill takes a different approach: the right approach,” said Smith. “This bill imposes a stiff sanctions regime that makes clear that the United States will give no quarter to this despicable government.”
Along with colleagues in the House, Smith took another critical step to block further administration concessions to the Iranian regime by passing the “United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016” (H.R. 4992) on July 14. This measure would prevent President Obama from granting Iran direct or indirect access to U.S. dollars and the U.S. banking system.
“This commonsense measure will deny the Iranian government and Iranian banks access to U.S. dollars until the administration can certify that Iran meets the most fundamental conditions: that Iran stop supporting terrorism and pursuing weapons of mass destruction and other dangerous weapons programs.”
Smith voted last year to reject the administration’s deal with Iran and warned about the serious flaws, gaps, and huge concessions it contains. By supporting these three bills, he reaffirmed his opposition to the agreement and his vigilance against the threat Iran poses to the U.S. and our closest regional ally, Israel.
In its 2016 report, mandated by the “Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act,” the U.S. State Department does a better job at identifying countries that fail to meet obligations under an international child abduction treaty, but the agency falls short in properly listing every country that should be condemned for its “pattern of non-compliance,” a key designation and first step towards sanctions.
At a hearing today on Capitol Hill, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on human rights and author of the Goldman Act, noted the improvement but asked State Department Officials to explain the reluctance and to identify what steps will be taken to move non-compliant countries to help bring home American children.
“Parents of children still held without progress in India, Tunisia, and Brazil will be relieved to see these countries designated ‘non-compliant’ in the 2016 Goldman Act Compliance Report,” Smith said. “And those of us who have watched Japan closely note that the report states clearly that ‘Japan failed to comply with its obligations under the Hague Abduction Convention.’”
“What remains inexplicable, perhaps, is how or why Japan was kept off the list of non-compliant countries for a second year in a row when even the State Department condemned them for ‘systemic flaws’ in their ability to enforce court orders to return U.S. children,” Smith said. Smith’s full statement can be found here.
“Under the law, failure to enforce return orders is an automatic trigger for designation of ‘pattern of non-compliance. The natural progression then is for the State Department to turn to sanctions. Thus, the designation is key,” said Smith who first introduced the Goldman Act in 2009 and pushed it through to final passage in 2014.
James Cook, an American father from Minnesota who won the return of his children from Japan, but has yet to secure enforcement, testified at the hearing and explained the trials left-behind parents face. “Children who knew me as a parent that hugged them, kissed them on the forehead and in so many ways communicated my unconditional acceptance of them as people, have been told to fear me and deny my attempts to access,” said Cook. “I understand their situation, and the choices they had to make to survive, but the emotional pain still remains.” Cook’s full testimony can be found here.
This year’s report shows that India had 99 open abduction cases, with 83 still open at the end of the year. Hearing witness Ruchika Abbi of Virginia, a survivor of domestic violence seeking the return of her daughter from her abusive former husband, now in India, said “The parents of American children… face enormous and, often insurmountable obstacles in seeking the return of our children. We receive little assistance from our Government and no assistance from the Indian Government, despite the fact that these cases have been lingering for years! I am asking for help, I am asking that our children be returned home to the United States, without further delay.” Abbi’s full testimony can be found here.
The report also noted Brazil’s continued failure to return abducted American children under the Hague Convention. This year’s report shows 25 open cases, with 13 pending for more than two years. Dr. Chris Brann, a father from Texas whose son was abducted to Brazil three years ago, said “It is beyond belief to me that Brazilian courts are rewarding Marcelle for illegally abducting my son.” Brann’s full testimony can be found here.
Edeanna Barbirou of Maryland, whose son Eslam was abducted four years ago to Tunisia, explained that the State Department relies too heavily on often-unreliable foreign governments: “We continue to accrue judicial order after judicial order, the Tunisian government continues to provide baseless assurances, and Eslam remains illegally detained in Tunisia.” The State Department has yet to apply any of the strong tools provided by the Goldman Act to push Tunisia on the implementation of its own court orders. Barbirou’s full testimony can be found here.
Among its many provisions, the Goldman Act requires an annual report on parental child abduction and those nations found to have demonstrated a “pattern of non-compliance.” Smith’s law also requires the State Department to assist parents whose children have been abducted to countries who have not signed on to the Hague Convention and provides the State Department penalties it can use against non-conforming countries. It also requires the State Department to inform Members of Congress when a constituent whom they represent is a victim of international child abduction.
Smith has held nine hearings on international parental child abduction since he met with Monmouth County, N.J. resident David Goldman in 2009, including cases of left-behind parents of American children abducted to India, Japan, Egypt, Brazil, Russia, England and other countries.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee today approved two important resolutions introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04)–one to help prevent a constitutional crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (H. Res. 780) and the other to forestall deterioration in next month’s presidential election in Gabon (H. Res. 821).
Elections in DRC are scheduled to be held in November of this year, but it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the elections can be held on time. According to the DRC constitution, President Joseph Kabila cannot run for a third term, and his mandate and that of the national legislature expires on December 19. If elections are not held before then and no agreed-upon legal process is reached prior to that time on a process to govern DRC until elections can be held, the country will no longer be governed by a legally constituted government based on DRC law.
“President Kabila sent a special envoy to dissuade us from proceeding with H. Res. 780, but he could not offer a justification for the Kabila government failing to use the five years since the last election to prepare for elections this year,” Smith said. “Our resolution steps up the pressure on the Kabila government to respect their own country’s constitution and to not seek a backdoor means of prolonging Kabila’s regime.”
Demonstrations and boycotts have become violent over the past year as activists and their supporters become increasingly concerned that Kabila will use recent court interpretations of the DRC constitution to support Kabila remaining in office until elections are held and his successor is sworn in.
As a result of the introduction of H. Res. 780, a coalition of the DRC Diaspora has devised a process under which President Kabila would name a Prime Minister to temporarily assume power under the constitution’s emergency provisions to organize elections through a broad-based national conference.
As for Gabon, the last elections in 2009 were plagued by election irregularities that provoked violent demonstrations. H. Res. 821 was introduced to demonstrate U.S. support for “orderly, peaceful and free and fair presidential elections on August 28.”
“Gabon could and should be an example for the region if this year’s elections adhere to international standards,” Smith said.
These two resolutions signal a new determination by the Foreign Affairs Committee to urge free and fair elections processes in countries with upcoming elections to forestall problematic elections processes that have resulted in political stalemate and violence.
Today Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) introduced the Equity for Disaster Victims Act to provide relief to victims of Superstorm Sandy and reform the federal government’s disaster relief programs to ensure fairness and flexibility.
“Following Sandy, victims acted in good faith to jumpstart the recovery process and begin rebuilding with SBA loans,” said Smith, who represents hard-hit Monmouth and Ocean Counties. “Those who accepted SBA loans have since found themselves ineligible for further relief though various grant programs—a circumstance they were never informed of during the loan process.”
“There is a fundamental difference between a loan with interest and a grant—it is commonsense. Those who accept SBA loans should not be precluded from future assistance merely because such assistance is not yet available,” continued Smith. “States should have the flexibility to award victims grants that will pay down the balance on the loan, and my legislation will give them that authority.”
The Disaster Victims Equity Act would allow homeowners, small businesses, and nonprofits that accepted Small Business Administration (SBA) loans following Sandy to receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants to repay the principal and any interest accrued on the loan. It would also make this provision permanent for any future disasters.
“Just because a business owner or homeowner secures a disaster loan from the SBA, they shouldn’t be denied additional assistance in the form of a grant,” said Velázquez. “This approach leaves disaster victims in the cold and hampers the recovery process. I’m proud to join with my colleague, Rep. Smith, in working to address this longstanding problem in the law.”
“Moving forward, this would allow disaster victims with immediate needs to apply for SBA loan assistance with the knowledge that it will not automatically preclude them from future relief,” said Smith. “This issue arose over ten years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and has yet to be resolved—we cannot continue to ignore it.”
In November 2011, HUD issued a Notice clarifying that SBA disaster loans and Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grants are considered duplicative assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
While HUD provided guidance in July 2013 allowing CDBG-DR grantees to offer assistance to Sandy victims who did not apply for SBA loans or who previously declined such loans, it has done nothing to assist those who accepted SBA loans with no knowledge of the potential consequences.
Last July, Smith testified before the House Committee on Small Business and urged SBA and HUD to provide an equitable solution. He told the committee of the Armstrong family in Manasquan, New Jersey who applied for and received an SBA home disaster loan after their home was destroyed by Sandy.
After liquidating their retirement savings and incurring a substantial tax penalty as a result, the family applied for relief through New Jersey’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program. The family was shocked to learn of their ineligibility for a grant award solely due to their acceptance of the SBA loan—a circumstance that they were never informed of during the loan process.
Smith testified after sending a letter to SBA and HUD requesting further guidance permitting HUD grantees to provide grant awards to Sandy victims who previously accepted SBA loans—at least for the purposes of paying down the loan. He also asked that the matter be referred to SBA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The damage done by President Obama’s single-minded focus on his legacy—at the expense of the Cuban people—was examined this afternoon by those who have lived through it at a hearing entitled “The Castro Regime’s Ongoing Violations of Civil and Political Rights.” Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee tasked with addressing human rights, blasted the “deplorable and deteriorating” prospects for civil and political rights on the island.
“Disregard for civil and political rights has gotten worse, not better, since President Obama visited Cuba in March,” said Smith. “The regime continues to jail and beat political dissidents, with even extrajudicial killings apparently sanctioned. The Obama Administration cannot allow concerns over its ‘legacy’ to muffle its voice when it should be insisting that the Castro regime respect the rights of the Cuban people.” Smith’s full statement can be viewed here.
Renowned dissident Dr. Oscar Biscet of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, who like many dissidents opposing the Castro regime is Afro-Cuban, noted that President Obama’s actions violated the animating values of the United States. “The US Administration established diplomatic relations with the dictatorship in communist Cuba,” said Biscet. “It undermined the American values of freedom shown in the Bill of Rights and its Constitution.” Biscet’s full statement can be viewed here.
Sirley Avila, a one-time local government official whose advocacy on behalf of her constituents led to her assault by a machete-wielding assailant who cut off her hand and left her for dead, warned that unless something is done, the outlook for the country is bleak: “Cuba remains a military dictatorship. In Cuba, human rights continue to be violated and at this moment the people of Cuba are more alone than ever behind the curtain of foreign investors and North American tourists.” Avila’s full statement can be viewed here: here.
“The Cuban government violates–both in practice and in the letter of Cuba’s laws–most universally recognized civil and political rights,” according to Werlau. Her Free Society Project’s Cuban Archive initiative has catalogued over 6,200 deaths and disappearances attributed to the Castro regime. She noted that while since 2003 there has been an official moratorium on application of the death penalty, since Fidel Castro transferred power to his brother Raul 10 years ago, there have been some 34 documented extrajudicial killings. Werlau’s full statement can be viewed here: here.
Both Smith and Werlau noted in their remarks that July 13 is the 22nd anniversary of the Tugboat Massacre when 37 victims, including 11 children, were killed by the regime.
To watch the start of the hearing on the video below, advance player to the 3:37pm mark, or click here.
“While the Administration is touting improvements in its relationship with the Castro brothers’ regime, it seems little has changed for the Cuban people. The human rights situation is both deplorable and deteriorating,” according to Smith.
Smith is the author of the Cuban Human Rights Act of 2015 (H.R. 1782), which links any improvement in ties with Cuba to the Castro regime meeting basic human rights milestones, and the Walter Patterson and Werner Foerster Justice and Extradition Act (H.R. 2189), which calls upon the Administration to prioritize the return of fugitives from justice such as Joanne Chesimard, convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.
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.
I’m proud of the work police in NJ do 2 keep ppl who wander safe& intro-d Kevin&Avonte’s Law 2provide more resources https://t.co/3yfFoINTO0
Retweeted by RepChrisSmith