Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

NEW JERSEY's 4th DISTRICT

Exactly Five Years to the Day of First Introduction, Smith’s Int’l Child Abduction Bill Passes Senate; Heads Back to House for Final Approval

2014/07/18

On Wednesday, July 16, exactly five years to the day that Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) introduced his first bill to prevent international parental child abduction, the U.S. Senate finally approved Smith’s legislation, The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, House of Representatives Bill 3212 (H.R. 3212).

    Smith wrote the original proposed legislation in 2009 subsequent to his personal intervention in the fight to bring Sean Goldman home to New Jersey, years after he had been abducted to Brazil by his mother.  Smith’s successful work with Sean’s father, David, and a team of lawyers, volunteers and media helped bring Sean home, but also uncovered gaping weaknesses in U.S. law and the need to codify best practices so that other Americans will also see their children returned home.

    At its core, Smith’s legislation will give the State Department a variety of tools to pressure foreign governments to send home American children abducted to overseas destinations. The bill also requires better reporting and support from the State Department so that left-behind parents are not on their own in overseas battles to win the return of their abducted children.

    During his five year struggle, Smith has authored four versions of the bill (HR 3240; HR 1940; HR 1951 and HR 3212) using each to educate his colleagues and make modifications aimed at winning widespread support in an increasingly partisan congress.  In December 2013, the House passed Smith’s bill unanimously, 398-0.  Smith said he was grateful that Foreign Affairs Chairman Bob Menendez and Ranking Republican Bob Corker released the bill out of committee to the Senate floor where it passed unanimously in a voice vote, with some final modifications.

    “In the five-year push to turn this bill into law, we have seen a sea change in the Congress’ and State Department’s understanding of international parental child abduction—an understanding that these abductions are a form of child abuse and a human rights violation.  There are many heartbroken parents waiting for this bill to help them in their fight to see their children again.

    “Many children and parents have tragically lost years separated from each other in violation of U.S. and international law,” Smith said. “They have missed birthdays, holidays, and family time—that they can never get back. H.R. 3212 ensures that they will now receive significant help from the U.S. government in their fights to recover their children. Every day a child is separated from his or her rightful parent and home in the United States brings immense suffering to both parent and child. The Goldman Act is designed to right the terrible wrong of international child abduction and heal enormous pain and suffering and bring abducted children home.”

    In 2013, Smith named the bill after David and Sean Goldman who have been reunited in Monmouth County for nearly five years.  Following Sean’s return to New Jersey, David Goldman has stayed active in promoting the legislation in an effort to spare other parents and children the painful, illegal separation he and his son endured for five years.

    Smith has held multiple hearings on the heartbreaking cases of  left-behind parents of American children abducted to India, Japan, Egypt, Brazil, Russia, England and other countries, from which few are returned. Not all countries have signed The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the main international treaty to address parental abductions. The Hague provides a civil framework for the quick return of abducted children to their home country, and facilitation of visitation and contact between parents and children during the pendency of the case and after the resolution. Unfortunately, many Hague signatories, like Brazil, fail to consistently enforce the Hague Convention provisions.

    Among its many provisions, H.R. 3212 provides eight steps the Administration should take, increasing in severity, when a country refuses to cooperate in the resolution of overseas abduction and access cases involving American children: 

> a demarche;
> an official public statement detailing unresolved cases;
> a public condemnation;
> a delay or cancellation of one or more bilateral working, official, or state visits;
> the withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of U.S. development assistance;
> the withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of U.S. security assistance;
> the withdrawal, limitation, or suspension of foreign assistance to the central government of a country relating to economic support; and
> a formal request to the foreign country concerned to extradite an individual who is engaged in abduction and who has been formally accused of, charged with, or convicted of an extraditable offense.

    The bill also—for the first time—urges the Administration to enter into Memorandums of Understanding or other bilateral agreements with non-Hague Convention countries to locate and foster the return of
abducted children and protect the access of the left-behind parent to the child. In order to ensure better accountability of the Administration and to warn U.S. judges who may allow a child to visit a country from which return is difficult, the bill significantly enhances reporting on country-by-country performance.

    H.R. 3212 also requires the Administration to inform Members of Congress about abducted children from their districts. It also that directs the Secretary of Defense shall designate an official within the Department of Defense to coordinate with the Department of State on international child abduction issues and “oversee activities designed to prevent or resolve international child abduction cases relating to active duty military service members.

    “Currently, if you have a child who is illegally taken to a non-Hague country, the State Department position is that there’s nothing it can do to help,” Smith said. “That’s totally unacceptable. With this bill, for the first time ever, parents with children held in non-Hague countries can work with the State Department. They won’t be on their own, far from the United States, desperately trying to get their children back. The Act also ensures that the Department of Defense will assist our men and women in uniform who find themselves facing parental child abduction.

    More than one thousand international child abductions are reported to the State Department’s Office on Children’s Issues each year.  Between 2008 and 2013, at least 8,000 American children were abducted, according to the State Department.  Earlier this year, the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children reported that there have been at least 168 international child abductions from New Jersey since 1995.

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On the Passing of Bob Roe

2014/07/15

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), dean of the New Jersey congressional delegation, released the following statement on the passing of former New Jersey Congressman Bob Roe Tuesday:

    “Bob Roe was an extraordinarily effective lawmaker, always fair, tenacious, focused—a true workhorse for the people,” said Smith. “As chairman of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, he made enduring contributions to the infrastructure of not only New Jersey but the rest of the nation as well. I will miss him.”

    Smith noted that even after his retirement, Roe would visit him occasionally in Washington.  Smith, a Republican first elected in 1980, served for more than a decade with Roe, a Democrat elected in 1969 who left office in 1993.

 

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African Orphan Crisis Focus of Hearing

2014/07/14

The fate of Africa's children with no parents and a bleak future was the topic of a House hearing held today by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Africa and global human rights subcommittee.

    The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, adoptive parents and advocacy groups testified on options to ease the crisis, including international adoptions. The hearing was entitled “The Growing Crisis of Africa's Orphans.” The factors contributing to the crisis include war and civil unrest, children who don’t know if their mothers and fathers are alive or dead after they become separated in  flight for sanctuary, HIV/AIDS, which has wreaked havoc on the continent, and other diseases.

    “The orphans of Africa, if grouped together in a single country, would be the fourth largest country in all of Africa,” said Smith, referring to the millions of orphans of Africa. “Behind every statistic about orphaned children, behind the pie charts and graphs, there is also a portrait in miniature: a lonely child who is left without a mother or a father, perhaps dealing each night with the pangs of hunger pain, or just seeking a place where one can lay one’s head down in safety until the morning comes.  That child awakes to forage and fend for another day.  Behind every statistic, there is a young boy or girl who has to deal with the sense of abandonment, or with the trauma of having seen parents killed before his or her eyes.

    “One remedy for this crisis is inter-country adoption, which sometimes brings children from Africa to our shores to provide them with loving homes. This is, of course, only a partial remedy, because for every child who is given a loving home, there are many more for whom there never will be such a refuge,” Smith said. Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening statement.

    The Democratic Republic of the Congo is of particular concern for suspending the issuance of exit permits for Congolese children adopted by foreign parents– even though parents have been officially declared the legal guardians under Congolese law. More than 900 American families are caught up in varying stages of this adoption limbo.

    Witnesses (click on name to read testimony) includedRobert P. Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Kelly Dempsey, General Counsel and Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Both Ends Burning; Shimwaayi Muntemba, Founder, Zambia Orphans of AIDS; Jovana Jones, Adoptive mother of a Congolese child, and; Muluemebet Chekol Hunegnaw, Senior Director, International Programs, Save the Children.

    “We know children can be vulnerable to international and domestic human trafficking, whether through sex trafficking, forced child soldiering, or forced labor,” Jackson testified. “Children throughout the continent are exploited in domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced labor in a variety of sectors, including mining, fishing, cattle herding, and harvesting coffee or rice. Armed conflict and other instability, poor economic conditions, food insecurity, rural poverty, and lack of social safety nets can also leave children vulnerable.

    “There are so many ways for us to help children in Africa, and it is important for us to work collaboratively to address the issue with a survivor-centered approach: lobbying countries for laws to protect them, supporting efforts to implement those laws, and establishing protective services in conjunction with civil society,” Jackson said.

    Lindborg recounted her March visit to South Sudan, where violence and insecurity have forced more than 1.5 million people from their homes since December.

    “Among those fleeing are thousands of children separated from their families – some sent to safety by parents desperate to save their children,” Lindborg said. “Others became separated from their parents during the recent violence that has ravaged their country.

    “While the needs and challenges in these settings are often overwhelming, I have seen the enormous difference USAID-supported programs can make in the lives of those affected,” Lindborg said.

    Jones, who is an adoptive mother of a Congolese child, testified that she has been waiting three years to bring home her adopted daughter, Ana Lei.

    “As adoptive parents, we’ve spent years preparing and it is imperative that our children come home immediately,” Jones said. “We have done our part. Our families have done all we can and we are at our limit. We boldly ask for the backing and support of our President, congressmen, and elected officials, that you all draw your focus on removing any further delays of the adoption process within the countries of Africa. We sincerely appreciate the efforts that have been made thus far, but frankly it’s not enough. It’s not enough until we have each orphan home with his or her American family. Each moment of delay makes it more difficult for them to adjust and more challenging for the parents to provide them care. Our arms are open now, and our homes are ready to receive them today.”

 

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'Leahy Law,’ Nigeria Crisis Focus of House Hearing

2014/07/10

Helping the Nigerian government in its fight against the notorious terror group called Boko Haram was the topic of a House hearing held Thursdayby U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Africa and global human rights subcommittee.
 
    “Boko Haram has significantly accelerated its acts of mass murder and abduction in Nigeria, requiring a more robust and effective response from the Government of Nigeria and friends like the United States,” said Smith, who has traveled to Nigeria twice in the past year. “If individuals or elements of a larger force are guilty of human rights violations, entire battalions or regiments can be tainted unless the guilty are identified and separated out from those forces that are innocent of such crimes. The Leahy laws allow for the re-creation of ‘clean’ units. On the surface, it would seem that such a policy is clear and possible to implement.  Unfortunately, it seems not to be so simple in practice.

    “I believe the so-called Leahy laws are necessary components of a prudent human rights policy, and today’s hearing is intended to find out whether there are legitimate obstacles to their implementation,” Smith said.  “Where they exist, we seek to identify these obstacles and eliminate them.” Click here to read the chairman’s opening statement.

    Since the 1990s, a requirement to providing training, better known as the Leahy laws, is intended to prevent the United States government from assisting foreign military/security forces involved in human rights violations. The Leahy laws cover material assistance, including equipment, and training and requires investigation of allegations of human rights violations by military and security forces, including police. These investigations, performed mostly by the Department of State, require details on not only individuals, but also military units. Delays or inability to obtain such information as name and date and place of birth can indefinitely stall an investigation.

    The hearing, entitled “Human Rights Vetting: Nigeria and Beyond,” featured five witnesses (click on the name to read the witnesses written testimony): Col. Peter Aubrey, U.S. Army (RET), Former Director, Security Cooperation for United States Army, Africa, and the Defense and Army Attaché to the Federal Republic of the Nigeria, and current President of Strategic Opportunities International; Lauren Ploch Blanchard, Specialist in African Affairs at the Congressional Research Service, and analyst on African political, military and diplomatic affairs, and on U.S. policy in the region; Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer, Human Rights First; Stephen Rickard, Director, Washington Office, Open Society Foundations, founder of the Freedom Investment Project to encourage U.S. support for international justice, former director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and Washington director for Amnesty International USA; Sarah Margon, Washington Director Human Rights Watch.

    Smith held a hearing on Nigeria in November 2013 featuring the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and head of the Bureau of African Affairs. The congressman visited the country in September 2013 and June 2014, and is the sponsor of the ‘‘Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2013,’’H.Res. 3209. The State Department agreed to make the declaration at the November 13, 2013, House hearing chaired by Smith.

    “We cannot engage and professionalize a force if it has committed or has been accused of committing actions we find objectionable. Of course, that means that we will not have the opportunity to insert ourselves in professionalization efforts for the force in question or help eradicate that behavior or action we find objectionable or rapidly help in moments of crisis,” said Aubrey. “Despite its noble intent, there is a negative side to these provisions. Cumbersome, time consuming validation and vetting of local national forces ensure that a rapid response to emergency training requirements will not occur.”

    Blanchard said Nigeria provides an example of the challenges U.S. policymakers face in building foreign counterterrorism capacities. “By many accounts, developing countries like Nigeria that are struggling with terrorist threats may desperately need the specialized skills and support that U.S. security assistance is designed to provide,” she said.

    Massimino noted Smith came to Congress at about the same time that Human Rights First was established, and both been working together ever since. She stressed that human rights should remain among the highest of priorities in U.S. foreign policy. She said human rights vetting requirements like the Leahy Laws—are critical to U.S. leadership.

    “No one in the Congress—and very few outside of it—can match your passion and persistence,” Massimino said. “You are a constant reminder to your colleagues that respect for human rights is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing, too.”

    Rickard said that he viewed the Leahy Laws as “common sense laws” that prohibit the United States Government from arming or providing military training to security force and police units abroad who have been credibly alleged to have committed gross human rights violations.

    “The Leahy Laws don’t actually prohibit the U.S. from working with even these units – the ones that have committed murder and torture, Rickard said. “It only says that the U.S. cannot arm or train them until the foreign government takes steps to clean up the unit.”

    Margon said the Leahy Law is a key tool to address security force abuse in Nigeria – and elsewhere.

    “I am very pleased this subcommittee is taking a closer look at human rights vetting, otherwise known as the ‘Leahy Law,’ and its application,” Margon said. “Simply put, the Leahy Law is an important means to ensure that the US does not become complicit in grave human rights abuses abroad and that it upholds its international legal obligations. In and of itself, this would be a laudable goal. But it also makes sense within the larger foreign policy context since militaries that commit abuses can also exacerbate long-standing grievances, escalate atrocities, foment political instability, and provide abusive armed opposition groups and terrorist organizations with a very powerful recruiting tool.”
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Smith Manages Bill on House Floor to Reauthorize Int'l Religious Freedom Commission

2014/07/08

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee today managed debate of H.R. 4653, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act. Smith gave the following statement on the House floor:

"Mr. Speaker, I move that the House suspend the rules and pass H.R. 4653, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2014, as amended, authored by Chairman Frank Wolf of Virginia.

"H.R. 4653 demonstrates the strong bipartisan support that exists for religious freedom, with nearly an equal number of Republican and Democrat co-sponsors.  This makes for a powerful statement in a world where we see the rights of religious minorities and conscientious objectors being trampled upon in countries where intolerant ideologies, be they of a sectarian or secular nature, seek to crush moral and spiritual thought and conscience.

"The headlines are filled with examples.  A 27-year old mother in Sudan was imprisoned and faced a death sentence in Sudan because under Sharia law she was considered an apostate as the child of a Muslim father, even though the only religion she herself had ever professed was Christianity.  To this day, Meriam Ibrahim remains unable to leave Sudan.

"Anti-Semitism, pervasive and lethal in the Middle East, has spread like a cancer in many parts of Europe and has resurfaced in Ukraine with a series of shocking and violent attacks following the ouster of former Prime Minister Yanukovich. 

"In Communist dictatorships such as China, religious believers are imprisoned, tortured and even executed for attempting to practice their faith.  In China today, there is a pernicious, escalating war on believers made worse by the wanton brutality of the regime’s ubiquitous secret police.  In North Korea, the situation couldn’t be more dire, with Christians in particular subject to what human rights observers have termed genocide, dying by the tens of thousands from starvation and torture in concentration camps for daring to hold true to their consciences—that innermost sanctuary of the individual.

"Tragically, many countries of the world are a long way from achieving the human right of religious freedom recognized by Article 18 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

"In 1998, with great legislative skill, commitment and driving passion, Chairman Frank Wolf pushed a supportive Congress but highly reluctant White House into enacting a singularly important human rights law—the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).  

"For the first time ever, Frank Wolf’s law made the protection and promotion of religious freedom a serious priority in U.S. foreign policy by creating an Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom, by establishing the Office of International Religious Freedom at the Department of State—which among other duties, compiles the International Religious Freedom Reports on every country in the world—and by crafting  the independent-minded U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the subject of today’s reauthorization.

"Importantly, Frank Wolf’s landmark law also created a system for naming and taking action against Countries of Particular Concern, or CPCs.  History has shown that when the U.S. elevates religious freedom and that priority is conveyed to Countries of Particular Concern, conditions often change for the better, prisoners of conscience gain their freedom and progress is made in the free or at least freer exercise of religious liberty.    

"According to the Commission, three themes guide Commissioner’s discussions on priority countries with severe violations of religious freedom: state-sponsored hostility to and repression of religion; state-sponsored extremist ideology and education; and state failure to prevent and punish religious freedom violations (impunity). Several of the CPC countries that systematically violate religious freedom fall into all three categories

"Mr. Speaker, when an Administration—be it Republican or Democrat—demotes or trivializes religious freedom to a minor talking point, human rights abusing nations construe such indifference as license to harass and exploit persons of faith.

"Since its founding, the International Religious Freedom Commission has issued 15 annual reports and 14 special reports covering 76 countries.  Of these, the Commission has identified 16 of these as countries that should be designated CPCs.

"I should also point out that in the Commission has acted as a true watchdog, recommending with incisive commentary twice as many countries as CPCs than the State Department has designated as Countries of Particular Concern.  This includes nations such as Vietnam, which is an egregious violator of the rights of religious minorities.  The Commission, however, calls it like it is and pulls no punches.

"It is unfortunate that, while CPC designations remain, the penalties associated with the designations have now essentially lapsed. The last designations by the Obama Administration were in 2011, and as two years have passed, the sanctions directly linked to the International Religious Freedom Act’s sanctions authority have expired.  This failure to implement our law on religious freedom sends a deeply troubling message to violators of this fundamental human right.  It is thus even more important that we in Congress speak with a clear voice today.

"Two and a half years ago, after passing with strong bipartisan support in the House, reauthorization for the Commission got bogged down in the Senate.

"This time we hope we can avoid such a repeat.  In the House there has been tremendous cooperation on both sides of the aisle.  We have had excellent input from the Commission throughout this process, including testimony from then-Chairman Dr. Robert George of Princeton University, at a hearing my subcommittee held this past May 22.  (On July 1, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett was elected as the new Chair, Dr. George is now Vice Chair.)  Members from religious minority communities – Muslim, Bah’ai and Christian – spoke about the importance of the work of the Commission in Iran, China and Pakistan helping shine a light on the serious abuses that take place in all three countries, and in so doing, elevated an issue that is of grave concern in far too many countries of the world today.

"I therefore ask all our colleagues to join us in supporting this fine bipartisan piece of legislation, sending an important message to the world that the United States values religious liberty, and that it should continue to be a cornerstone of our foreign policy."

 

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Ocean Grove Holds Ribbon-Cutting for Newly-Restored Boardwalk

2014/07/03

Rep. Chris Smith celebrated the official opening of the newly reconstructed Ocean Grove Boardwalk today, joining the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) in cutting the ribbon on the boardwalk that was largely destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.   The federal funding for the project came after Smith and others worked with the Association as they appealed two previous denials.

Standing alongside Governor Chris Christie, President of the OGCMA Dr. Dale C. Whilden, Senator Jennifer Beck, and Neptune Township Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley, Smith praised the community for its resiliency and the partnership between federal, state, and local leaders that helped reverse FEMA’s original decision and strong opposition to the reconstruction project.

“Today is truly a great day for Ocean Grove, Neptune Township, Monmouth County, and the Jersey Shore, and a critical step forward in our recovery from Sandy,” said Smith.  “This boardwalk is an integral part of Ocean Grove the neighboring Jersey Shore community, a fact we reinforced during our efforts to reverse FEMA’s original decision at the local level—and yet another at the regional level—to deny critical funding.”

“With unrelenting determination and teamwork, we brought the case to critical decision makers in Washington, holding meetings with FEMA in my congressional office. On the second appeal, a skillful oral presentation given to FEMA by Ocean Grove leaders left no doubt as to the boardwalk’s important emergency and public health and safety function—resulting in FEMA’s reversal,” continued Smith.

“Not long after the Storm I visited the boardwalk, and vividly remember the total devastation all around. Dr. Whilden, J.P Gradone, Bill Bailey, Ralph DelCampo and all those with OGCMA deserve great credit for their tenacity and tireless efforts to rebuild and restore the Ocean Grove community and boardwalk.”

FEMA originally deemed OGCMA ineligible for federal assistance as a private, nonprofit entity, despite facts to the contrary.  Following the denial, Smith helped lead an effort with OGCMA leadership, Governor Chris Christie’s office, and in particular, NJ  “Sandy Czar,” Mark Ferzan, Neptune Township and Ocean Grove’s state legislators—State Senator Jennifer Beck and Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini—to petition the federal agency in Washington to reverse its decision.

Following several discussions and meetings in Washington, including a pivotal June session  in Smith’s Washington, D.C. office with top FEMA officials—and a letter to FEMA making the requestthe Agency agreed to allow Ocean Grove’s leaders to present an oral argument on second appeal in Washington. 

In the appeal process, the OGCMA—the non-profit organization which owns the boardwalk—demonstrated that it has a unique history in helping with government services in Ocean Grove.  They demonstrated further that the boardwalk is a vital economic artery for businesses in Ocean Grove and neighboring towns, and is also a heavily-traveled thoroughfare used by police and emergency services to access to the beaches, connecting Neptune to the towns of Asbury Park to the north and Bradley Beach to the south.

In December 2013, FEMA announced its reversal and deemed the Ocean Grove boardwalk an eligible facility for federal public assistance.  On February 4, 2014, Ocean Grove received final notice that a federal grant for the construction of the boardwalk would be available, and on February 7, Smith met with key personnel from the local, state and federal levels for the project’s planning meeting. On May 9, Rep. Smith announced an award of $2,377,629 in federal funding for reconstruction of the boardwalk. 

Smith also worked to persuade FEMA to approve a 90 percent federal share for FEMA funding going to all Jersey public assistance programs that pay for cleanup and reconstruction costs—instead of the initially planned 75 percent. 

“The FEMA grant for Ocean Grove represents 90 percent of the cost of this work, while the CMA cost share is only 10 percent,” Smith said. “Had FEMA not raised the cost-share rate from 75 to 90 percent, the added cost to Ocean Grove would have been nearly $400,000 more.”

Above: Rep. Chris Smith and Governor Chris Christie (center) cut the ribbon on the new Ocean Grove boardwalk as (from left) Dr. Dale Whilden, Assemblywoman Caroline Cassagrande, Senator Jennifer Beck, and Neptune Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley look on.

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Smith Resolution on Fighting Child Sex Trafficking Adopted at Conference of European Lawmakers

2014/07/01

Baku, Azerbaijan—Child sex trafficking and anti-Semitism were the subjects of Rep. Chris Smith’s successful legislative efforts this week at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. The Assembly, consisting of parliamentarians representing the 57 countries that make up the OSCE, conducted its 22nd annual conference from June 28-July 2, at which parliamentarians from member states discussed their response to the Ukraine crisis, human rights violations in a number of member states, and other foreign policy issues. Rep. Smith (NJ-04) was the head of the eight-member U.S. Delegation to the Assembly.

            Smith’s resolution on child sex trafficking urged member states to adopt a series of specific measures that would protect child victims, promote effective prosecution of offenders, and coordinate action between countries in the event of international travel by convicted child sex offenders. The resolution contained many elements of Smith’s International Megan’s Law, H.R. 4573, passed by the House of Representatives on May 20. Click here to see the debate on Smith’s resolution.

            The conference also adopted Rep. Smith’s amendment on anti-Semitism, re-affirming the unambiguous condemnation of anti-Semitism by the 2004 Berlin DeclarationThe Declaration resulted from Smith’s initiative to put the issue of fighting anti-Semitism on the OSCE agenda, as anti-Semitism had made a frightening resurgence sometimes masked as opposition to Israel. Smith’s efforts resulted in a series of high-level conferences, the chief of which was the 2004 Berlin Conference, attended by Smith and then-Secretary of State Powell, at which the organization’s members committed themselves to concrete steps in the fight against anti-Semitism. In the past year, Smith has supported Rabbi Andy Baker, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chair-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, in his efforts to review progress on those commitments.

Smith also addressed the lawmakers, urging them to renew and increase their commitment to combating anti-Semitic and anti-Christian extremism. Click here to see Smith’s remarks, excerpted below:

“I would point out to my colleagues that just two months ago the Anti-Defamation League released the largest survey ever on anti-Semitism: more than 53,000 people were interviewed in 102 countries, covering approximately 86% of the world’s population. They found that 26% of those polled had deeply anti-Semitic views. The worst place of all, not surprisingly, was the Middle East and Northern Africa.

“We need to be doing more, Mr. Chairman, and I do believe with the 10-year anniversary commemoration coming up for the Berlin Action Plan, that very, very watershed event, we need as a Parliamentary Assembly to be redoubling our effort.

“By way of background, Mr. Chairman, members should know that at the Berlin 2002 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I sponsored the first resolution on combating anti-Semitism. Also in 2002 I chaired a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism in Washington and proposed that the OSCE itself schedule a major conference on combating anti-Semitism.

“As many of you know, the Bush Administration agreed and U.S. Ambassador Stephan Minikes worked with his fellow ambassadors to make those conferences – because it became plural – a reality. The first conference was held in Vienna, followed by the conference in Berlin, in 2004. And we are now at Berlin +10 and it is time to begin the assessment of where we have been and where we need to be.

“In Berlin the OSCE adopted a comprehensive plan of action, including chronicling acts of anti-Semitic hate, trying to make systemic changes in our legal systems, and of course Holocaust education so that young men and young women would be sensitized to the terrible bias that underlies anti-Semitism.

“It was in Berlin that Natan Sharansky defined the newest, emerging manifestation of anti-Semitism, which he described as the Three D’s – first, demonization of Israel, double standards applied to Israel and other countries, and de-legitimization of Israel’s right to exist, the third D. He said everyone has the right to disagree with Israeli policies, but very often those disagreements simply camouflage underlying anti-Semitic hate.

After urging a redoubling of the efforts in each country to combat anti-Semitism, Smith also focused on the increasing incidents of Christian persecution world-wide:  


“There is a rise of anti-Christian belief as well, worldwide. Pope Francis is right when he says the greatest persecution in the world today is against Christians. I’ve held 50 hearings on persecution and human rights violations in China alone, where Christians in particular, as well as some others like the Falun Gong, are terribly discriminated against and tortured. But it does happen in the OSCE space as well. Sometimes it’s more nuanced. But it does happen where Christians are marginalized and left out.  “We know that Christians in Syria are targeted simply because they are Christians – beheaded and killed in the most horrific of ways in that terrible conflict.

“I just returned, Mr. Chairman, from Nigeria – I was in Jos last September, and I was in Abuja three weeks ago. I met with many survivors who’ve had their homes raided by night, particularly in the northern three states, but also below those three states. One man I met in an IDP camp in September, Habila Adamu, told me that a gun was put to his head: ‘renounce your faith, become a Muslim or you die!’ He said, ‘I’m ready to meet my Lord.’  He was shot; he survived with half his face blown away. That is the reality of what these extremist groups are all about.”

 

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Smith, LoBiondo Oppose Seismic Testing Off Jersey Shore

2014/07/01

NEW JERSEY - U.S. Representatives Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) and Chris Smith (NJ-04) today strongly condemned the decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to grant the necessary authorization to allow a proposed seismic testing survey off of Barnegat Bay and the Jersey Shore to go forward.

“I’m deeply disappointed with NOAA’s decision to allow seismic testing off of the Jersey Shore despite near-unanimous opposition from local concerned residents, commercial and recreational fishermen, and environmentalists for the proposed project,” said Representative LoBiondo. “Congressman Smith and I have repeatedly pressed NOAA to recognize the serious and significant reservations of our communities and those who visit the Jersey Shore during the summer tourism season. There are legitimate questions unanswered about the impact to local marine life, the potential damage to endangered species and habitats, and the need to do such research at this time in the first place.”

“It is unacceptable that the National Science Foundation and NOAA have chosen to proceed with the seismic study off the New Jersey coast.  The citizens of the Fourth Congressional District—which includes coastal towns in Monmouth and Ocean Counties—as well as numerous local, state and national fishing and environmental groups, have voiced disapproval with the timing of this study.  With a wide variety of marine life active off our shores at the peak of summer and New Jersey’s fishing industry still recovering from natural disasters, Congressman LoBiondo and I echo the concerns of local residents: this is an ill-advised move,” said Representative Smith.

Under the NOAA authorization, Rutgers University in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF) would conduct a seismic survey 25-85 kilometers offshore New Jersey from June through August 2014 aboard a vessel owned by NSF. LoBiondo and Smith opposed the survey, arguing in a letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan in April 2014 that “The New Jersey shore’s environmental and commercial vitality may be impacted negatively from this marine seismic survey. While we fully support scientific research, any proposal for this kind of research must be scrutinized and examined thoroughly before New Jersey communities are exposed to the potentially harmful impacts of this seismic testing.”

The Congressmen succeeded in having NOAA extend the public comment period for an additional 30 days so local opposition could be heard. The comment period ended on May 16, 2014. LoBiondo will be attending a town meeting hosted by Clean Ocean Action and other concerned citizens in Barnegat Light on Wednesday evening.

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Supreme Court Issues Obamacare a Historic Defeat in Favor of Religious Liberty

2014/06/30

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chair of the Bi-partisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court decisions today in the religious freedom cases of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell:
 

         “This is a resounding victory for religious freedom, and more than that, freedom for all Americans who want to live and work according to the dictates of their conscience.  In handing the Obama Administration this historic defeat, the Court has upheld the conscience rights of Americans, including the Green and Hahn family businesses, and provided much needed relief from a discriminatory Obamacare policy. The Court’s decision also exposes the Constitutional problems inherent in this Obamacare mandate forcing American family business-owners to either violate their moral and religious beliefs by paying for insurance coverage of abortifacient drugs and devices—or pay massive fines to provide health insurance for their employees.

         “Notwithstanding today's victory affirming that Americans do not lose their conscience rights in the workplace, we must not forget that there remain more than 50 cases involving nonprofit organizations, including the University of Notre Dame and the Little Sisters of the Poor, which have sought similar relief in the courts in order to follow their religious beliefs as they provide healthcare for their employees. Next the Court will have to consider the Obama Administration's coercive rule, (the so-called ‘accommodation’) for religious nonprofits. This ‘accommodation’ is a distinction without a difference, and fails to protect the freedoms of charities that provide services to Americans and instead forces them to be complicit in activities they morally oppose. President Obama’s attempt to force these faith-based organizations to violate their religious beliefs cannot possibly stand after today’s decision.

 

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Rep. Smith Statement on Discovery of Bodies of Three Missing Israeli Teens

2014/06/30

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2014—In response to reports that Israeli officials have found the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted earlier this month in the West Bank, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House panel that oversees international human rights, said:

“My heart goes out to everyone who knew these young men, especially their families.  The death of a young man is always a terrible loss, but this is made worse by the hateful crime that ended their lives. Let’s remember them in our prayers – and support the Israeli government as it seeks justice for the victims and their families and holds accountable those who committed this horrific crime.

    Smith, a Senior Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights & International Organizations, has been a congressional leader in the fight against anti-Semitism for three decades.  Smith authored the provisions of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 that created the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism within the U.S. State Department. More recently, on January 30, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed Smith’s amendment to the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 (H.R. 938) – the Smith amendment added a section to the bill providing that “the Department of State should continue and, to the furthest extent practicable, increase its coordination on monitoring and combating anti-Semitism with the Government of Israel.”

    Smith has chaired six hearings on anti-Semitism, including Congress’s first-ever hearings on anti-Semitism. Following Smith’s landmark 2002 hearing, “Escalating Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe,” he led a congressional drive to place the issue of combating anti-Semitism at the top of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agenda.  As a result, in 2004 the OSCE adopted new norms for its 56 member states on fighting anti-Semitism, and from 2004 to the present has held a series of high-level conferences on combating anti-Semitism. Rep. Smith is the author of numerous laws, resolutions, and member letters on combating anti-Semitism. In the 1990s Smith chaired Congress’s first hearings on anti-Semitism and in the early 1980s his first trips abroad as a member of Congress were to the former Soviet Union, where he fought for the release of Jewish “refuseniks.” He is co-chairman of the Bi-Partisan Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (an organization of Members of Congress) and a member of the steering committee of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism.

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Smith Speaks to Postal Workers at Site of 2001 Attacks

2011/10/24

Cong. Chris Smith was the guest speaker at the Trenton Processing and Distribution Center on Route 130 in Hamilton, NJ. Read More

Floor Tribute to former Rep. John Adler

2011/04/05

NJ Delegation Speak on House Floor Read More

Hearing on China's One Child Policy

2011/03/21

Rep. Smith chairs a hearing on China's One Child Policy Read More

Congressman Smith Helps Open New Veterans Clinic

2010/09/14

Cong. Smith Helps Open New Veterans Clinic in Mercer Co. Sept. 2010 Read More

Rep. Smith Assists Family with Haitian Adoption

2010/03/30

Representative Chris Smith helped the Michaud family adopt a young girl from Haiti Read More

Congressman Smith: Lifting Cuban Sanctions Should Be Based on Human Rights

2009/06/01

Tells CNN Anchor Castro Brothers Still Oppress Dissent Read More

Rep. Smith Discusses Earle Housing Proposal on My9 News

2008/07/18

Rep. Smith Discusses Earle Housing Proposal on My9 News Read More

Rep. Smith Calls on China to Release Political Prisioners Ahead of Olympic Games on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight"

2008/07/03

Rep. Smith Calls on China to Release Political Prisioners Ahead of Olympic Games on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" Read More

Rep. Smith Discusses Internet Suppression and the "Global Online Freedom Act" on FOX Report

2008/06/21

Rep. Smith Discusses Internet Suppression and the "Global Online Freedom Act" on FOX Report Read More

Condemning Recent Violence in Zimbabwe

2008/06/18

Rep. Smith manages debate on H Res 1230 which condemns postelection violence in Zimbabwe and calls for a peaceful resolution to the current political crisis Read More

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Contact Information

2373 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-3765
Fax 202-225-7768
chrissmith.house.gov

Committee Assignments

Foreign Affairs

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.


Serving With

Frank LoBiondo

NEW JERSEY's 2nd DISTRICT

Jon Runyan

NEW JERSEY's 3rd DISTRICT

Scott Garrett

NEW JERSEY's 5th DISTRICT

Leonard Lance

NEW JERSEY's 7th DISTRICT

Rodney Frelinghuysen

NEW JERSEY's 11th DISTRICT

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