Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

NEW JERSEY's 4th DISTRICT

Cuba and Malaysia Taken Off 'Bad Actors' Trafficking List for Political Reasons

2015/07/27

“For political reasons alone, President Obama has done a grave disservice to victims of human trafficking in Cuba and Malaysia by upgrading the human trafficking tier rankings in those countries in the annual Trafficking in Persons report,” said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which mandates the annual world-wide trafficking assessment and ranking report.

    Smith also noted that the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) office—50+ expert analysts—still does painstaking, yeoman’s work in combating human trafficking worldwide and gathering the needed information but said in this case the compelling facts got “whitewashed” in the higher echelons of the Obama Administration.

    “This report, the 15th annual report since I first wrote our nation’s anti-trafficking bill, is not only six weeks late,” Smith said “but it has careened off into a new direction where the facts regarding each government’s actions in the fight against human trafficking are given almost no weight when put up against the President’s political agenda.

    “In April, I chaired my 17th hearing that focused solely on trafficking and there was no indication in the expert testimony provided that either Malaysia or Cuba had done anything to warrant an upgrade, or to suggest that victims of trafficking are in a better situation in either country than they were last year. What has changed?” Smith asked.

    “It seems quite clear that Malaysia’s role in the TPP and Cuba’s unchecked march to normalized relations have captured the Obama Administration’s ability to properly access the worst of the worst when it comes to fighting to protect trafficking victims and punish the thugs who mastermind this modern day slavery

    “It is no coincidence that earlier this year the Obama Administration also removed Cuba from the national list of state sponsors of terrorism. One-by-one this Administration is overriding human rights and national security policies for another agenda,” he said.

     Smith noted that the rankings provided to both China and Vietnam fit better into the Administration’s agenda than fit into the careful standards of the report.

    “China—which should be a Tier 3 country but gets an ‘Obama-pass’ to Tier 2 Watch list—has the distinction of not only neglecting to fight human trafficking, but of compounding the suffering of victims and aiding traffickers through short-sighted government policies,” Smith said. 

    “In 2014, China continued to profit from detaining individuals for reform through forced labor; China continued to forcibly repatriate trafficked North Korean refugees, knowing they will be imprisoned or killed; and China’s birth limitation policy continued to result in a gender gap leaving millions of men without wives and creating a vacuum for trafficked women and girls from surrounding nations. 

    Turning to Vietnam Smith said “We know the Vietnamese government directly profits from human trafficking, we know prisoners are used in forced labor, and we know that women are trafficked to China as brides and prostitutes. In the religious freedom context we saw Vietnam respond with action when they were held to account and knew that trade would be impacted.

    “Tragically, today’s human trafficking ranking was a lost opportunity to inspire real change and assistance for the victims of human trafficking in Vietnam,” Smith said.

      Smith also noted that Burma received yet another waiver.

    “Burma gets an undeserved waiver for the fourth straight year,” Smith said. “The State Department keeps saying Burma ‘has a written plan,’ but that plan isn’t implemented. There is more proof this year that government and military officials are complicit in the trafficking of the ethnic minority Rohingya. Their precarious situation continues to be one of the world’s saddest and most tragic stories. Government-supported discrimination and violence pushes Rohingya to leave, and local officials and others profit from their plight, which this year includes discoveries of death camps in Thailand and Malaysia. We also know there are thousands of cases of forced labor in Burma’s ethnic states, including the conflict zones in the Kachin and Shan states, as well as northern Rakhine State.”

    “If you want proof these decisions were politicized just look at the numbers,” Smith said. “China convicted 35 traffickers, Malaysia 3, and Thailand 151—but only Thailand is Tier 3. What message does that send? When we engage in trafficking cronyism—giving a free pass to new friends and partners for reasons unrelated to the suffering of trafficking victims—U.S. credibility is harmed, U.S. leadership is undermined, and the trafficking victims are left helpless and alone.”    

    In April, Smith chaired a hearing on human trafficking to evaluate the recent records of countries downgraded to the worst tier in last year’s TIP report, such as Malaysia and Thailand, as well as to examine whether China and Vietnam had records supporting their better tiers.

    Smith was an invited guest at today's unveiling at the State Department. Secretary John Kerry recognized the Congressman as a leader in the fight against human trafficking, calling Smith someone "who has been just such a longtime champion on these issues."

    Under the TIP report, Tier 1 countries fully meet minimum standards. Tier 2 countries do not meet the minimum standards but are making significant effort to do so. Tier 3 countries do not meet the standards and are not making significant effort to do so. Along with the embarrassment of being listed on Tier 3, such countries are open to sanction by the U.S. government.

    Tier 3 countries are subject to potential sanctions that include the United States using its voice and vote to deny such countries loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multi-lateral banks, and barring non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign assistance, as well as certain education and cultural exchange programs. 

    In addition to the original 2000 law (P.L. 106-386) which provided for the annual reports, Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims. 

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Maloney, Smith target slavery, human trafficking and child labor with bipartisan supply chain transparency bill

2015/07/27

Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) and Chris Smith (NJ-04) today introduced the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015. The bill requires public companies with over $100 million in global gross receipts to publicly disclose any measures to prevent human trafficking, slavery and child labor in their supply chains as part of their annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The introduction follows today’s publication of the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report, which stressed the need for governments to “set clear expectations for businesses on human rights issues and adopt policies that promote greater transparency and better reporting on anti-trafficking efforts in supply chains.”

“There is no question that many goods being sold to American consumers are produced with slave labor, and we have a moral obligation to do something about it,” said Rep Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12). “This legislation simply requires businesses to publicly disclose what actions they have voluntarily undertaken to remove labor abuses from their supply chains. It is a good first step we can take to improve reporting and transparency so that we can enforce existing laws against labor abuses and allow consumers to make more informed decisions.”

“Some companies may participate knowingly in human trafficking to pad the bottom line; others are willfully ignorant of where and how their inexpensive products are made; and still others simply do not know,” said Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which mandates the annual world-wide trafficking assessment and ranking report. “The bottom line is there is no excuse for a company’s complicity or ignorance in the suffering endured by human trafficking victims hidden away in the supply chain. It is not enough for a company to say they are unaware of human trafficking in their product line; consumers and Congress want to know that companies are actively taking steps to ensure there are no connections between human trafficking victims and their business products and services.”

Maloney first introduced the bill in 2011 as The Business Transparency on Trafficking & Slavery Act (H.R. 2759). Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) plans to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

Bill Summary:
The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015 amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require businesses with over $100 million in global gross receipts to report to the SEC as part of their annual filings what policies they have in place to ensure their supply chains are free of slavery and human trafficking. Disclosures would be prominently posted on SEC and company websites for public access. 

 

Definitions of “Forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor”:

“Forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor” means child labor in violation of international standards including International Labor Organization Convention No. 182 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and acts that would violate the criminal provisions related to slavery and human trafficking under chapter 77 of title18 if they had been committed within the jurisdiction of the United States.

 

Benefits for the Public:

  • Access to disclosure information on SEC and company websites will help consumers make informed purchasing decisions.

  • Companies are accountable to the public for their business practices.

  • Creates market competition to improve how businesses identify and address instances of slavery and human trafficking within supply chains.

     

    Transparency by Companies:

  • Disclosure requires outlining practices employed to avoid use of slavery in supply chain in annual report to SEC.

  • Maintains internal accountability standards, supply chain management and procurement systems, and procedures for employees or contractors failing to meet the company standards regarding forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor.

  • Does not dictate how companies do business.

 

Summary of findings:

  • Stating the statistics for goods made by forced and child labor, the U.S. role as an international importer and the laws that affect the U.S. in that role, domestic and global labor standards, pro-labor initiatives in the U.S., and domestic and global principles and initiatives to combat trafficking. 
  • Trafficking is deemed the most terrible act that humans commit against each other for commercial profit, and that businesses can help in the fight against trafficking through transparency of their practices.

Contacts:
 
Mike Morosi (Maloney) 202-225-7944
Jeff Sagnip (Smith) 202-225-3765

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<span class="kicker">Trafficking Report Mandated by Smith Law Due Out Monday***</span>Smith Calls on Administration to Fight Trafficking w/ Truth & Hold Nations Accountable

2015/07/24

With the 2015 country-by-country analysis and rankings on human trafficking set to be released Monday morning by Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), the author of the law which created the annual report, called on the Administration to produce an honest and accurate accounting and not allow non-human trafficking related factors to come into play in determining rankings.

    Smith, who wrote the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) which mandates the report, fears that the true records on human trafficking of some countries—such as Cuba, Malaysia, Vietnam and China—will not be accurately reflected in the report. In April, Smith chaired a hearing on human trafficking to evaluate the recent records of countries downgraded to the worst tier in last year’s TIP report, such as Malaysia and Thailand, as well as to examine whether China and Vietnam had records supporting their better tiers.

    “The report’s power lies in its credibility; if a country is rewarded without merit, or for obvious political reasons, it undermines U.S. leadership on trafficking – and American leadership more generally,” said Smith, co-chair of the House Human Trafficking Caucus. “American consumers don’t want to buy slave-made goods and we should not accept that an estimated 27 million people—the majority woman and children—live in conditions of modern slavery.”

    “The U.S. trafficking rankings have brought tangible results,” Smith said. “Countries have turned 180 degrees when given, or threatened with, the lowest ranking (Tier 3). No country will take U.S. trafficking rankings seriously when there seems to be a ‘wink and nod’ agreement to throw them away when it suits U.S. business or other interests.   It is important to be clear and consistent, freeing slaves and putting traffickers behind bars is priority where the U.S. cannot compromise.”

    Since the TIP Report’s inception, more than 120 countries have enacted anti-trafficking laws and many countries have taken other steps required to significantly raise their tier rankings—citing the TIP Report as a key factor in their increased anti-trafficking response. The TVPA created the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department. Its annual report rates 187 nations, including the United States.

Malaysia

    “Malaysia is a safe haven for traffickers, who operate with impunity,” Smith said. “The Administration claims an upgrade is justified because Malaysia passed a modest trafficking law, well after the after the reporting period ended. Malaysia hasn’t earned a better grade, and it has neglected to implement their other trafficking laws for years.

    Smith noted with disapproval the impact on the TIP rating in light of the new trade deal being negotiated by the Administration with several Asian nations. Smith co-led a 160-member letter  to the Administration on the subject last week.

    “Let’s be honest, Malaysia is getting a ‘free pass’ to ease its TPP entry. It’s a political decision, not based in evidence. President Obama made a commitment to end modern slavery, but this decision prioritizes trade over trafficking victims and may put millions of U.S. dollars in the pockets of traffickers.”

    Smith also noted that neighboring nations, such as Thailand, were repeatedly told by the Administration that their actions after the reporting period—such as the arrest of a three-star general and public officials for trafficking Rohingya—would not count toward Thailand’s ranking this year.

China

    “China should be Tier 3,” Smith said. “It is the trafficking black hole of Asia. China did absolutely nothing last year to truly address its trafficking problems. China didn’t end its Reform Through Labor (RTL) system of detention, it simply renamed the buildings. And the modest reforms made to the long standing ‘One-Child Policy’ didn’t make a dent in China’s huge gender gap, which is the primary driver of prostitution and bride trafficking in the region.”

    Smith, chair of the bipartisan Commission on China which is made up of appointees of White House and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, noted “China continues to profit from forced labor from prisoners. China forcibly repatriates trafficked North Korean refugees, knowing they will be imprisoned or killed. And China’s draconian population control policies are the reason a huge number of men who cannot find wives.” 

Vietnam

    Turning to Vietnam, Smith expressed regret at Vietnam’s Tier 2 ranking in last year’s report. Vietnam’s state-owned companies are widely known to be involved in the forced labor, including debt bondage of their own citizens abroad. Vietnam also forces drug users into commercial labor in government-run drug rehabilitation centers. Smith said, “We know the government directly profits from human trafficking, we know prisoners are used in forced labor, and we know that woman are trafficked to China as brides and prostitutes. The only reason Vietnam continues to hold its Tier 2 ranking is because of the TPP. Politics, not facts, influenced this decision. And it may consign Vietnamese women, children, and prisoners of conscience to slave status in order to ease passage of a trade deal.”

Cuba

            Cuba has been rumored to be on the Administrations Tier upgrade list as well, despite the fact that Cuba is reportedly a top destination for child sex tourist because Cuban law allows 16-year-old prostitutes. “The trafficking ranking should not be used in hopes of bringing about better bilateral relations with Cuba; rather, better relations with Cuba should be pre-conditioned on real protection for Cuba’s prostituted children, and other human rights issues,” said Smith.

    “The trafficking ranking should not be used as a sweetener thrown in to better relations with Cuba; rather, better relations with Cuba should be used to secure real protection for Cuba’s prostituted children. Indeed, given the apparent complicity of Cuban government officials in trafficking and sex tourism, one wonders how we can normalize relations without first seeing evidence of a change in behavior.”

    Under the TIP report, Tier 1 countries fully meet minimum standards. Tier 2 countries do not meet the minimum standards but are making significant effort to do so. Tier 3 countries do not meet the standards and are not making significant effort to do so. Along with the embarrassment of being listed on Tier 3, such countries are open to sanction by the U.S. government.

    The Congressman said all Tier 3 countries are subject to potential sanctions that include the United States using its voice and vote to deny such countries loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multi-lateral banks, and barring non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign assistance, as well as certain education and cultural exchange programs.

     In addition to the original 2000 law (P.L. 106-386) which provided for the annual reports, Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and expanding treatment assistance for victims.

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Monmouth County Fire Company Awarded $161K FEMA Grant

2015/07/24

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) said a federal grant in the amount of $161,082 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been awarded to Wall Township Fire Company Number 1 to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
 
     “Wall Fire Company Number One is the oldest fire company in Wall Township and has a long history of protecting the community,” said Smith.  “This grant will purchase emergency equipment that is critical to protecting the firefighters so they can do their job.”

 

    Smith said the grant funds will be used to update the department’s current inventory of SCBA for a total of 28 units.

 

    “We currently have some SCBA in service that are over 20 years old and all of our units are at least two revisions behind the current National Fire Protection Association guidelines,” said William Newberry, Director of Fire Services for Wall Township Fire District 1.  Without this grant it would have been very difficult to update our inventory within our current financial position.”

            The funding comes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Operations and Safety Grant Program. It is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. The purpose of AFG is to award grants directly to fire departments and non-affiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations (EMS) to protect both the health and safety of the public, and first-responder personnel as well. A competitive process overseen by fire service subject matter experts awards grants to applicants whose requests are aligned with the priorities of the AFG Program. For more about the FY 2014 AFG Program please visit http://www.fema.gov/assistance-firefighters-grant.

 

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Ocean County Fire Company Awarded $210K FEMA Grant

2015/07/24

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) announced today that the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Department, Manchester Township, has been awarded an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) award for over $210,000 to purchase critically-needed self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and turn out gear.  

    "This important FEMA grant will help protect firefighters in harm’s way in Manchester Township,” said Smith, a long-time member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. “Firefighters require reliable equipment in order to survive in smoke-filled environments. Ridgeway members need this funding to safely do their jobs—which is protecting the lives, homes and businesses of the people they serve. The equipment they use currently is nearly out of date, so this grant will help keep them safe for years.”

    The funds will be used to replace low-pressure SCBA gear including new face pieces and high-pressure bottles. The new equipment will replace older sets that are out of compliance and unreliable. Turn-out gear is comprised of the fire suits, boots and helmets.

    "Our turn-out gear is more than 20 years old, and our air packs are outdated after next year. This couldn't have come at a better time," said Mike Trimarchi, Chief of Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Department

    The award, for $210,455, comes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants Operations and Safety Grant Program. It is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. The purpose of AFG is to award grants directly to fire departments and non-affiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations (EMS) to protect both the health and safety of the public, and first-responder personnel as well. A competitive process overseen by fire service subject matter experts awards grants to applicants whose requests are aligned with the priorities of the AFG Program. For more about the FY 2014 AFG Program visit http://www.fema.gov/assistance-firefighters-grant.

    This is round 10 of the competitive FY 2014 fire grant announcements. Smith voted to create the equipment grant program in 2000. Congress created the program to upgrade capabilities of local firefighters to respond to fires and fire-related hazards, such as vehicular accidents.

    Congressman Smith, who represents New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District in the House of Representatives, has offices in Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties. The Monmouth County office is located at 112 Village Center Drive, Raintree Town Center, 2nd floor. The phone number is (732) 780-3035.

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<span class="kicker">Smith wrote original law that created national cord blood program</span>House Panel Advances Bipartisan Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Bill

2015/07/23

Legislation to reauthorize America’s bone marrow and cord blood donor registry cleared a major hurdle today, winning quick approval of the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee where it was marked up and reported to the full committee for its consideration.

    Introduced just a month ago the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2015, H.R. 2820, provides that two collaborative programs that support treatment and therapies derived from adult stem cell lines will not expire at the end of the federal fiscal year. Under the legislation, the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program will be authorized for five years at $20 million annually, while the National Cord Blood Inventory is authorized at $23 million annually for a five-year period. 

    Stems cells derived from cord blood and bone marrow have been used successfully to treat thousands of patients with such diseases as leukemia and sickle cell anemia, and genetic disorders. H.R. 2820 will enable more people to receive similar treatments and go on with their lives.

    H.R. 2820 is expected to receive similar support and approval at the full Energy and Commerce Committee before the August break. The bill’s lead sponsors, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06) issued the following statements:

    “This important bipartisan legislation is needed to expand and extend two great research and therapy programs that are already saving lives,” said Congressman Smith, who also authored the original law (The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005—P.L. 109-129) that created the national cord blood program and expanded the C.W. Bill Young cell transplantation program. “Cord blood and bone marrow adult stem cells have applicability and potential that is proven and invaluable. People are being cured each and every day by these therapies—continuing federal support offers a lifeline to thousands more. We look forward to seeing this bill quickly pass the House and Senate and be signed into law.

    “This legislation provides hope to the thousands of Americans who search for a match for bone marrow and cord blood transplants. It also supports critical medical research to improve patient outcomes for the more than 70 diseases and conditions for which transplant is a cure, and helps us find ways to battle additional diseases and conditions,” said Congresswoman Matsui, who co-founded the Congressional Caucus to Cure Blood Cancers and Other Blood Disorders with Rep. David Jolly (R-FL). “I understand firsthand how important it is to find the right match. It is the key necessary to unlock the potential cure that a bone marrow or cord blood transplant offers. The legislation we move forward today will give patients and their families hope of access to a curative transplant.”

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<span class="kicker">Smith chairs commission hearing</span>Persecution of China’s Religious Groups Topic of Commission Hearing

2015/07/23

At a hearing today on the persecution of religious communities in China at the hands of the government, Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) said that the freedom of religion is “under siege” in China.  Given President Xi Jinping’s “bold disregard” for human rights he questioned whether the planned September summit between President Obama and President Xi should be canceled.  Witnesses included a Chinese Muslim and Christian and advocates for religious freedom for Tibetans and Falung Gong practitioners.

 

    “The freedom of religion is the key human right…each citizen should have the precious right to follow their conscience peacefully and without fear and no government should deny or suppress religious liberty,” said Smith, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the chairman of the House panel that oversees international human rights. “The reality is that governments and terrorist groups restrict the freedom of religion, sometimes in the most brutal and public ways. The freedom of religion is under siege in many places of the world, including in China.”

 

    The hearing, entitled “Religious with ‘Chinese Characteristics’: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China,” was held by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), which Congressman Smith chairs, along with co-chairman Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. (link to hearing video archive)

 

    “China continues to rank up there with Iran, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia in terms of the sheer misery it inflicts on members of its diverse religious communities,” Smith said. “We are in the midst of a coordinated and often brutal campaign to manage, control, or crush China’s many religious groups, including Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners.  Human rights conditions in China are as bad as anytime in the past thirty years.” Congressman Smith’s opening statement can be found here.

 

    The hearing included expert witnesses including the current Miss World Canada 2015, Anastasia Lin, a human rights advocate; Rebiya Kadeer, President, the World Uyghur Congress; Losang Gyatso, Service Chief, the Tibetan Service, Voice of America, and; Bob Fu,  President and Founder, ChinaAid.  Their testimony can be found here.

 

    Smith also talked about the “massive crackdown on human rights lawyers” saying it was “unjustified” and “an undeniable set-back in U.S.-China relations.”  Many of China’s human rights lawyers are Christians who are fired by their religious convictions to protect the vulnerable and persecuted. Smith and Senator Rubio issued a statement last week condemning the arrests and detention of rights lawyers in China.

 

    The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, established by the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000 as China prepared to enter the WTO, is mandated by law to monitor human rights, including worker rights, and the development of the rule of law in China. Its members are a bipartisan combination of Congress and White House appointees.

 

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Smith Offers Condolences on the Passing of the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps

2015/07/23

His Excellency Roble Olhaye, Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Ambassador from Djibouti to the United States, has passed away at age 71 of an undisclosed illness. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, offers his condolences to Ambassador Olhaye’s family and to the people of  Djibouti for their loss.

             “Ambassador Olhaye has been a significant part of the diplomatic corps in Washington for more than three decades who faithfully represented his country and his continent with dedication and expertise. It will be strange attending the next Africa event and not seeing him presiding. He will be missed,” Smith said.

             Ambassador Olhaye has held his two posts since 1988. In 1989, he was appointed as non-resident Ambassador to Canada. He is currently the longest-serving ambassador to the United States and consequently held the post of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington.  As Dean, he received one of Djibouti’s highest medals of honor for improving how the nation was viewed internationally.

              He was married with five children.

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<span class="kicker">***Hearing Follows Tues. Elections; Vote Counting Continues***</span>Burundi Elections, Crisis Focus of Hearing

2015/07/22

In the immediate wake of yesterday’s election and as vote-counting continues today, the Burundi crisis was the central focus of a congressional hearing Wednesday held by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Africa and global human rights subcommittee in the House of Representatives.

      The hearing comes at a critical time for the small, landlocked African nation of Burundi amid the increasing political violence and the constitutional impasse created by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision not to abide by constitutionally-mandated term limits, and amid hopes both to avert greater conflict like the civil war that ended in 2005 but saw an estimated 300,000 people killed, as well as put an end to the growing refugee crisis.

    Smith noted that Burundi also went through a protracted Tutsi versus Hutu ethnic struggle that amounted to genocide in the 1990s, and that Burundi, without the international attention on the Rwandan genocide, overcame its divisive civil war and has sought to heal the wounds of the past and rebuild a nation.

      “Today, however, this peace is under the threat of unraveling,” Smith said, due to President Pierre Nkurunziza defiance of constitutional term limits seeking a third term. “While the constitutional issue is complex and unsettled, the rising political violence and tension – not to mention the roughly 160,000 people displaced and seeking refuge in neighboring countries – is easy to understand, and serves as a canary in the coal mine.

      “There is still time, and we in Congress have a role to play in sounding the alarm and prodding the Administration to take action, followed by oversight.  We also need to avoid the temptation to be penny wise and pound foolish,” Smith said. “We can avoid much greater cost down the road – and I mean not simply the dollar-and-cents expense of humanitarian interventions, but more importantly, in terms of blood lost and lives shattered.” Click here to read Smith’s opening statement.

    The congressional hearing, entitled “The Unfolding Crisis in Burundi,” included testimony from four non-government organization (NGOs) witnesses: Michael Jobbins, Director of Global Affairs at Search for Common Ground (SFCG); Dr. Elavie Ndura, Ph.D., Professor of Education, George Mason University; Alissa Wilson, Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator for Africa, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and; Steve McDonald, Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

    Jobbins said SFCG yesterday assembled and deployed a pool of 156 journalists from six radio stations, as well as its own Studio Ijambo, and the Agence Burundaise de Presse, to report on the voting process throughout the day. In general, Jobbins testified, election-day security was good in most of the country, though one incident was reported where the body of a member of the opposition MSD party was found, triggering protests in that neighborhood. There were reports of a large early turnout.

    “While many observers focused on the risk of violence during the electoral process as the principle threat to peace and stability in the country, we see a need for continued US diplomatic and programmatic engagement over the years to come,” Jobbins said, noting the appointment of Tom Perriello as the U.S. Great Lakes Special Envoy “represents a key opportunity for the United States to work closely with Burundi’s neighbors to play a positive role” and to continue to support regional efforts to broker a lasting solution.”  Click here to read Jobbin’s testimony.

    Wilson at the AFSC testified that revitalizing the mediation process should be a “top priority for the U.S. and other governments in order to help Burundi move past this crisis.” The international community needs to collaborate on a process that allows both sides to stay engaged and support efforts for peace. Congress should signal to the U.S. Administration that investment needs to be made in long-term support to post-conflict countries, rather than continuing a limited focus on “short term flashpoints,” and take a regional approach to the crisis.

    “We hope that the U.S. and international community engages government or political level actors as well as groups at the community level in efforts to forge durable peace, both now and into the future,” she said. Click here to read Wilson’s statement.

    Ndura gave an account of Burundi’s pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history. She testified that the same openness and honesty in the country that led to the historic Arusha Agreement that ended the 10-year civil war in 2005 must now be fostered among all Burundians to create and sustain a society grounded in sharing and collaboration, and defined by the common good.

    “For Burundi to avoid continued or renewed interethnic violence, people from all ethnic groups must develop their consciousness of the critical role that individuals and groups must play in the peacebuilding and social reconstruction processes in their nation,” Ndura said. Click here to read Ndura’s statement.

    McDonald said the international community should maintaining diplomatic relations and keeping humanitarian aid flowing, but also “push publicly and strongly for upholding democratic principles, the rule of law, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary and an independent election commission.”

    McDonald also said the U.S. and international community should help “revive and strengthen efforts by local NGOs, community groups and religious organizations to prevent mass violence associated with elections opponents and ethnic conflict that may emerge from the current crisis,” and resume efforts to “promote reconciliation and peace efforts across political, community, subregional, religious and ethnic lines, efforts that proved very effective in the lead-up to the 2005 elections.” Click here to read McDonald’s statement.

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<span class="kicker">NJ.com article on Wreck Pond Project</span>'Wreck Pond slated to get millions in additional federal funding'

2015/07/22

BY NJ.COM WRITER ROB SPAHR - The troublesome coastal lake near some of the Jersey Shore's priciest homes is slated to get millions in assistance from the federal government.

U.S. Chris Smith (R-4th District) announced Tuesday that nearly $3.6 million in federal funding through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 would be directed to help alleviate the flood risk around Wreck Pond and help to enhance water quality of the pond.

"Superstorm Sandy highlighted the significant health and safety hazards associated with the toxins in Wreck Pond, which did more damage to local residences than did the water coming in from the ocean," Smith said in a release.

The 48-acre coastal lake – located primarily in Spring Lake but is also in sections of Sea Girt, Spring Lake Heights and Wall Township – has filled in with silt and pollutants and causes beach closures and home damage when it overflows

The new funding will build on a previous $2 million grant awarded by the Fish and Wildlife Service to Spring Lake in 2013 for the construction a secondary outfall pipe and a living shoreline designed to protect residents and businesses from flooding issues.

"We've been working toward the full restoration and proper management of Wreck Pond for many years, and this federal funding is a huge step in that direction," said Smith, who announced funding for a federally-led study in 2013 to investigate ways to combat the drainage problems at the pond. "The work on Wreck Pond to date has paved the way for this grant and has been a good example of federal, state, county and local officials working to resolve a difficult challenge."

This article was originally published at:  http://www.nj.com/monmouth/index.ssf/2015/07/wreck_pond_slated_to_get_millions_in_additional_fe.html
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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

Tom MacArthur

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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