Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith

NEW JERSEY's 4th DISTRICT

<span class="kicker">Two Smith Bills Pass House…</span>House Takes Up Trafficking Bills Targeting Modern Day Slavery

2015/01/26

Two bills authored by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) to step up the fight against modern day slavery were taken up by the House today.

 

    Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees global human rights and a longtime anti-human trafficking  advocate, Smith authored the landmark law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA, Public Law 106-386). Today, two other Smith measures were debated by the House and unanimously passed in voice votesThese measures will challenge modern day slavery in the U.S. and around the world and help more women and children escape the hideous crime of human trafficking which afflicts more than 20 million victims around the world.

 

    “I am pleased that the new 114th Congress has put a high priority on combatting human trafficking,” said Smith, co-chair and co-founder of the House Human Trafficking Caucus and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. “Millions of victims around the world, including here in the United States, endure immense suffering from the inhuman brutality of sex and labor trafficking. Many of the victims are young women and children whose lives are living nightmares.”

 

    The House passed HR 514, “Human Trafficking Prioritization Act” and HR 515 , “International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking,” both sponsored by Smith, a senior member of the House  Foreign Affairs Committee.  HR 515 seeks to protect children from sexual predators seeking victims in other countries.

 

    “Protecting children from violence and predatory behavior are among the highest duties and responsibilities of government,” Smith said. “International Megan’s Law will protect children from child sex tourism by notifying destination countries when convicted pedophiles plan to travel.” Click here to read Smith’s floor remarks on HR 515.

 

    A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office entitled “Current Situation Results in Thousands of Passports Issued to Registered Sex Offenders” found that at least 4,500 U.S. passports were issued to registered sex offenders in fiscal year 2008 alone. HR 515, works to mitigate child sex tourism by enhancing notification to countries of destination concerning the travel plans of American convicted pedophiles. To protect American children, the bill also encourages the President of the United States to use bilateral agreements and assistance to establish reciprocal notification systems so that the U.S. will know when a convicted child-sex offender comes to the United States. Known as International Megan’s Law (HR 4573 in the last Congress), the bill establishes a model framework for reciprocal international law enforcement notifications when convicted child-sex offenders who pose a danger to children arrive in a destination country. 

 

    The bill is named for Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old from Hamilton, N.J. in Smith’s district who was kidnapped, raped, and brutally murdered in 1994. Megan’s assailant was a convicted, repeat sex offender living across the street, unbeknownst to residents in the neighborhood. Due to public outrage in response to the murder and to the hard work by Megan’s loving parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, the New Jersey State Legislature passed the original Megan’s Law (NJSA 2C: 7-1 through 7-II) to require public notification of convicted sex offenders living in the community. Today all 50 States and territories have a Megan's Law, an important tool in preventing more children from becoming victims.

 

    Smith first introduced the International Megan’s Law bill alongside the Megan’s parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka in 2008, and has worked for passage ever since. The bill passed the House in 2010, but the Senate failed to act on it. A new version of the bill passed in June. The Megan’s Law bill was passed out of committee and hotlined in the Senate, but the session ended before the bill could be adopted.  

 

    Smith’s other bill, HR 514, would raise the profile of U.S. anti-trafficking efforts by redesignating the State Department’s current “Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking’’ (created by Smith’s TVPA) as the ‘‘Bureau to Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP).’’ The bill also would require an Assistant Secretary to head the new bureau, in lieu of the current Ambassador-at-Large. The bill would also limit the amount of time countries the State Department keeps on its trafficking watchlist.

 

    “The Human Trafficking Prioritization Act, HR 514, will help keep the fight against human trafficking from being lost in the politics of other U.S. interests,” Smith said. “HR 514 will raise the status of the J/TIP ‘office’ to that of a ‘bureau’—ensuring that the leadership of J/TIP is present and has an equal voice at meetings with the other bureaus and the Secretary of State. In addition, HR 514 stops countries from gaming the tier-ranking system by limiting the amount of time they can be on the Watch List the second time around.” Click here to read Smith’s floor remarks on HR 514.

 

    HR 514 will not increase the cost of government, he said.

 

    Smith said his original TVPA law was enacted Oct. 28, 2000 to launch domestic and international efforts to monitor and combat human trafficking. In addition to the original 2000 law Smith wrote two subsequent anti-trafficking laws (PL 108-193 and PL 109-164) increasing resources for crime prevention and victims. According to the International Labor Organization, as cited in the 2014 annual report issued by the U.S. State Department and mandated by Smith’s TVPA law, more than 20 million people worldwide are trafficking victims. Some anti-human trafficking non-governmental organizations (NGO), suggest that there are as many as 36 million victims.
 

    Progress has been made in combating adult human trafficking since enactment of the TVPA. Over the last 10 years, we have federally funded 42 Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces in cities across the U.S., 13 of which are currently federally funded.  These task forces coordinate local and federal law enforcement to rescue victims, refer them to appropriate rehabilitative services, and prosecute traffickers. These task forces have trained more than 85,000 law enforcement officers and others in how to identify human trafficking.  More than 3,600 American children have been rescued from sexual exploitation ranging from truck stop to Internet prostitution, as well as pornography through law enforcement prioritization and coordination.  More than 1,500 pimps, madams, and others who exploit children in prostitution have been convicted, many with lengthy sentences, including the life sentences made possible by the TVPA of 2000. 

 

    In Smith’s own Garden State, there have been 21 state level prosecutions.  In the past three years alone an estimated 125,000 victims have been identified and assisted worldwide. In New Jersey, 237 trafficking victims have been identified since 2005.

 

    The TIP report uses tier rankings set by the U.S. State Department to evaluate just how hard governments around the world are combating human trafficking. Good or bad, the record is published for the world to see. Its annual TIP Report rates more than 185 nations. Rep. Smith chaired a special hearing in April 2014 to evaluate the records of countries downgraded to the lowest tier in the 2013 report.

 

    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.

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<span class="kicker">Congressional hearing set for Jan. 27</span>Nigeria Focus of House Hearing; State Dept, NGOs to Testify

2015/01/23

The recent widely-reported terrorist killings and 2013 kidnapping of school girls in Nigeria, the Nigerian government’s efforts to fight the notorious terror group Boko Haram and upcoming elections next month will be among topics of a House hearing set for Tuesday, Jan. 27 by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the Africa and global human rights subcommittee. Smith, who has traveled to Nigeria twice in the past 18 months, will chair the hearing.

WHAT: Congressional hearing entitled “Nigeria on the Brink?”

WHO: Smith, members of the Subcommittee on Africa and global human rights, and witnesses from the U.S. State Dept. and non-government organizations (NGOs):

  • Robert P. Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State
  • J. Peter Pham, Ph.D., Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council
  • Jadegoke Adebonajo Badejo, Principal Partner, Bonajo Badejo & Co.
  • Emmanuel Ogebe, of the Justice for Jos Project, Jubilee Campaign USA
  • Dr. Chris Fomunyoh, Ph.D., Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa, National Democratic Institute

WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Room 2200 in the Rayburn House Office Building (second floor).

    Smith held hearings on Nigeria in June and July of 2014. The congressman visited the country in September 2013 and June 2014, and was the sponsor of the ‘‘Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2013,’’ H.Res. 3209. The State Department committed to making the declaration at a November 2013, House hearing chaired by Smith.


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<span class="kicker">Every Life A Gift</span>Duty to protect the Weakest and Most Vulnerable

2015/01/22

    U.S.  Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) spoke at the 2015 March for Life in Washington, D.C., attended by hundreds of thousands of Americans from across the country. He gave the following remarks:

     
       You and I are here today because we have a compelling duty to protect the weakest and most vulnerable from the violence of abortion.

            You and I are part of the most important human rights cause on earth. The right to life is the first right.

            You and I are working, praying even fasting for that day when every life is cherished as a gift; every life loved despite one’s disability, race, sex, color, religion or condition of dependency; every life welcomed no matter the inconvenience.

            A prenatal diagnosis of disability should mean empathy and concern for the child not exclusion or a death sentence.  Every life is a gift.

            It is very encouraging to observe how many young people are stepping up to protect and lead.  Your presence here today is further evidence of this megatrend.  You are the pro-life generation—the next “greatest generation”—who will by your compassion, faith and determination, transform America to a culture of life.

            And we are here to honor and especially thank the courageous women who are “silent no more”, women who have blazed a hope-filled path for post abortive women to find healing, reconciliation and inner peace.

            Women deserve better than the false solution of dismembering or chemically poisoning unborn children.  Abortion profoundly wounds women, families, fathers and any society that permits it.

            Of course the way forward is fraught with obstacles that must be overcome. If the past is prologue, the history of the pro-life movement shows that we never quit.

            Mr. Obama—the abortion president—conveyed to the nation his solemn word that Obamacare would not subsidize elective abortion.  He even said that it would comport with the Hyde amendment.  Turns out that neither of those promises were kept.

            A few months ago, the General Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that over a thousand publically funded health insurance plans on the Obamacare exchanges pay for abortion on demand.

            Today the House will pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act—to end taxpayer complicity and funding of abortion.

             By some estimates, including by pro-abortion advocates, the Hyde Amendment has saved over a million children because 1 in 4 women who would have procured an abortion don’t go through with it if public funding isn’t available.

              HR 7 will help save lives.

            Attacks on conscience rights have accelerated both here and globally.  The latest outrage:  California forcing just about everyone including churches and other faith-based entities to subsidize abortion in their insurance plans effective August 22 of last year.

            Passage of the Abortion Nondiscrimination Act would significantly enhance conscience rights for both individuals and organizations by providing a private right to sue rather than relying on the Obama Administration to enforce current conscience laws.

            And soon, and very soon, the House will debate the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to legally protect most babies at 20 weeks post fertilization age.

            It is shocking but true, but America’s abortion policy is among the most extreme in the world and is one of only 7 countries that permit elective abortion after 20 weeks.

             This historic legislation recognizes the fact that unborn babies at 20 weeks feel pain and suffer as the abortionist dismembers or otherwise kills the child.

            According to the November 2014 Quinnipiac poll, 60% of voters support laws to protect pain capable unborn children.

            As was the case in the successful struggle to end partial birth abortion, this commonsense legislation faces serious opposition from the president, pro-abortion lawmakers and others.

            We will persist.  And we will prevail because every human life is a very special gift.


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House Resoundingly Passes H.R. 7, The ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’

2015/01/22

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, co-chair of the congressional bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus, applauded today’s overwhelming passage of legislation, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015 (HR 7) which will permanently prohibit federal funding for abortion and funding for any insurance plan that includes abortion on demand.

     “The American people strongly oppose taxpayer funding for abortion,” Smith said during the floor debate on the bill that coincided with the arrival of tens of thousands of prolife Americans in Washington for the annual March for Life.  

    “In the most recent polling, a Marist poll release yesterday, 68% of respondents oppose using taxpayer funding for abortion – including 69 percent of women and 71 percent of millennials. Even 49 percent--  nearly a majority --  of respondents who identified themselves as "pro-choice" oppose the use of taxpayer funding.

 “HR 7 reflects the overwhelming sentiment of the American people and will accomplish three important goals,” said Smith who coauthored the legislation with Democrat Dan Lipinski of Illinois. 

  • “The bill will make the Hyde Amendment and other current abortion funding prohibitions permanent. 

  • It also ensures that Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—faithfully conforms with the Hyde Amendment as promised by the President. 

  • And HR 7 will also provide full disclosure, transparency and the prominent display of the extent to which any health insurance plan on the exchange funds abortion—while we work to repeal the disastrous program,” Smith said.

    “On September 9, 2009 President Obama stood 6 feet from where I stand now and told lawmakers and the American public in a specially called joint session of Congress on healthcare reform that “under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion.

    “Turns out that those ironclad promises made by the President himself are absolutely untrue,” Smith declared while pointing to a recent government report that disproves the President’s assertion.

     “An extensive audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released in September of last year found that 1,036 Obamacare exchange plans covered elective abortion. GAO also found that separate billing of the abortion surcharge – required by the Act – is not being enforced by the administration and the abortion-funding premium is again being illegally rolled into the total plan cost,” Smith said.

     “Health care consumers are therefore buying health insurance with little or no knowledge that they are purchasing abortion subsidizing plans,” he said.

      Smith also said that the bill will save lives and help spare women and children from the horrors of abortion.

      “We live in an age of ultrasound imaging—the ultimate window to the womb and the child who resides there.  We are in the midst of a fetal health care revolution, an explosion of benign interventions designed to diagnose, treat and cure the precious lives of these youngest patients. 

    “We also know unborn children, at least by 20 weeks, or about 6 months, feel pain while being aborted,” Smith added.

    “Children, including children with disabilities deserve better treatment than pain-filled dismemberment.

    “By some estimates, including by pro-abortion advocates, the Hyde Amendment has saved the lives over a million children because 1 in 4 women who would have procured an abortion don’t go through with it if public funding isn’t available. 

    “HR 7 will help save lives,” he said.

    The bill includes exceptions in the cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, will save lives and help spare women and children from the horrors of abortion. 

    Smith, who is a cosponsor of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, HR 36, was unphased by barbs tossed on the House floor by those who said his legislation was moved because it is less controversial than the pain capable bill which will ban abortions after 20 weeks.

    “The Pain Capable bill has been delayed to finalize language, but I look forward to its passage in the immediate future.  Both bills seek to uphold the sanctity of human life and both have the support of the majority of American people. I am absolutely confident that this House will consider and pass the critical Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the next few weeks.”

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<span class="kicker">Rep. Smith speaks on House Floor</span>Children, Including Children with Disabilities, Deserve Better Treatment Than Pain-Filled Dismemberment

2015/01/21

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) took to the House floor this afternoon to support and call for House passage of The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

    Smith, co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, gave the following remarks on the floor:

 

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. “Mr./Madam Speaker, I thank my good friend and colleague for yielding.

 

“Mr. Speaker, pain, we all dread it. We avoid it. We even fear it. And we all go to extraordinary lengths to mitigate its severity and its duration.

 

“Yet a whole class of human beings is being subjected to a painful – and deadly – procedure – one of which is called the dismemberment method, the D&E.

 

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is a modest but necessary attempt to at least protect babies who are 20 weeks old—and pain capable—from having to suffer and die from abortion.

 

“Children, including children with disabilities, deserve better treatment than pain-filled dismemberment.

 

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act recognizes the medical evidence that unborn children feel pain.

 

“We are not living in the Dark Ages. One leading expert in the field of fetal pain, Dr. Anand, at the University of Tennessee stated in his expert report, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice:

 

‘It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.’

 

“Dr. Colleen Malloy, assistant professor, Division of Neonatology at the Northwestern University, in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in May of 2012 said:

 

‘When we speak of infants at 20 weeks postfertilization we no longer have to rely on inferences or ultrasound imagery, because such premature patients are kicking, moving and reacting and developing right before our eyes in the neonatal intensive care unit.’

 

“In other words, there are children the same age who, in utero, can be painfully killed by abortion who have been born and are now being given lifesaving assistance.

 

“She went on to say:

 

‘In today’s medical arena, we resuscitate patients at this age and are able to witness their ex-utero growth’

 

“Dr. Malloy concludes:

 

‘I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to horrific procedures such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection’

 

“Surgeons today entering the womb to perform life-enhancing corrective procedures on unborn children have seen those babies flinch, jerk, and recoil from sharp objects and incisions.

 

“As they seek to heal, surgeons today routinely administer anesthesia to unborn children in the womb to protect them from pain. We now know that the child ought to be treated as a patient, and there are many anomalies, many sicknesses that can be treated with a degree of success while the child is still in utero. When those interventions are performed, anesthesia is given.

 

“Last June TIME Magazine’s cover story, “Saving Preemies” explored the preemie revolution and how cutting edge medicine and dedicated caregivers are helping the tiniest babies to survive and thrive.

 

“TIME says “Thanks to advances that had not been made even a few years ago, the odds of surviving and thriving are improving all the time.”

 

“Abortionists on the other hand are in the business of ensuring that children neither survive nor thrive. Children, including children with disabilities, deserve better treatment than pain-filled dismemberment. Pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”


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<span class ="kicker">USA Today interviews Rep. Smith</span>Boko Haram emerges as brutal Islamic State of Africa

2015/01/17

Boko Haram, with its chilling brutality, radical Islamic ideology and unstoppable seizure of Nigerian territory is quickly emerging as the Islamic State of Africa.

While much of the world has focused on the terror attacks in Paris and the Islamic militants' capture of swaths of Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram has gone on a bloody rampage through northeastern Nigeria.

Human rights groups have sounded alarms about the al-Qaeda-linked organization's recent brutality: the slaughter of up to 2,000 people in the Nigerian towns of Baga and Doron Baga on Jan. 3 and the subsequent strapping of explosives on girls as young as 10 to detonate in public places.

USA TODAY STORY: 2,000 dead: Massacre deadliest in Nigerian history

Boko Haram first gained international notoriety for its savagery in April 2014, when it abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok and threatened to sell them as wives and sex slaves. The "bring back our girls" movement began with Nigerian village women demanding government action and grew into a worldwide rallying cry, with participants that included first lady Michelle Obama. Some of the girls later escaped but the fate of remaining captives is unknown.

In addition to its ruthless tactics, Boko Haram, echoes the Islamic State in its aspiration to create a "caliphate" across national borders by crossing into neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. On Monday, its fighters seized the Cameroonian border town of Kolofata. Cameroon's government said its forces killed 143 militants.

Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, appears on a video claiming to show some of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls on May 12 at an undisclosed location. The video shows about 130 of the 276 girls, wearing the full-length hijab and praying at an undisclosed rural location. The schoolgirls were abducted on April 14 from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. A video released by Boko Haram shows some of the kidnapped schoolgirls. Shekau speaks on a May 12 video.

And like Iraq's military setbacks against the Islamic State, Nigerian government troops seem weak and incapable of stopping Boko Haram from becoming a growing danger to Africa's most populous country and the world's 10th largest oil exporter.

"The United States needs to recognize we have a problem that's second only to the problem we have with ISIS (Islamic State)," said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. "We have a group holding territory and shooting down jet fighters. ... If Nigeria collapses — it is the strong state in the region — there are no strong states to contain what would happen if Boko Haram succeeds in carving out an Islamic state in that area."

USA TODAYrelated Story: Boko Haram responsible for thousands of deaths

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the Africa subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says Boko Haram is "as close to a carbon copy (of the Islamic State) as can be," and the U.S. response to combat the two groups has also been similarly slow.

What's needed, now, Smith said, is for President Obama to call Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and insist on the need for the U.S. military to train Nigerian troops to stop the movement.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told CNN on Wednesday that the USA is "actively working with the Nigerians," but added that "they need to step up," move forward with elections slated for Feb. 14, and not let terrorists "use elections as a wedge between the government and its people."

A week after the massacre occurred in Baga, groups that included Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported it. The town was razed and its inhabitants killed as they hid in the surrounding scrubland Jan. 3. More than 3,700 structures were damaged or destroyed, according to satellite imagery before and after the attack, according to Amnesty International.

Last weekend, Boko Haram strapped explosives to three girls about 10 years old and detonated them in a market in Maiduguri and in a mobile phone store in Potiskum, killing about 22 people in total, the groups reported.

President Jonathan, who previously sent 20,000 troops armed with tanks and aircraft to the country's northeast, has said little about the Baga attack. One of his aides, Doyin Okupe, questioned the reported death toll in a Jan. 10 tweet, according to Bloomberg News.

Gbara Awanen, the head political minister at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, told USA TODAY only the ambassador is authorized to speak to the media. And Ambassador Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye was traveling and unavailable, Awanen said.

Boko Haram, who's name means "Western education is forbidden," seeks to replace the Nigerian state with its own radical interpretation of Islam and now controls up to 20% of Nigerian territory.

USA TODAY-Since #BringBackOurGirls, Boko Haram grows stronger

USA TODAY- Some of Boko Haram's worst attacks in Nigeria

Nigeria's government has yet to accept large-scale international assistance to deal with the problem, said John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to the country.

The parallel to the Islamic State is limited by the fact that Boko Haram has not expressed a desire to become a global caliphate, Campbell noted.

Adotei Akwei, managing director of government relations at the rights group Amnesty International USA, said Boko Haram also lacks the governing skills demonstrated by the Islamic State in some of the territory it holds, although residents under its domination in parts of Iraq and Syria have complained about poor services and disorganized government.

USA TODAY-Boko Haram denies truce, says kidnapped girls married

Despite the international clamor over the kidnapped girls, the Nigerian government has had no success rescuing the 219 still missing, and local media have exposed weaknesses in the nation's military that include soldiers refusing to fight and mutinies.

On Jan. 3, Nigeria canceled a U.S. counterinsurgency training mission, according to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja.

Nigeria has generally rejected offers of assistance from Britain and the United States "because of the conditions that come with such assistance," said Akwei.

U.S. law prohibits U.S. military assistance to countries that commit human rights abuses. The Nigerian military's operations against Boko Haram have resulted in multiple allegations of illegal killings and detentions of suspected Boko Haram members reported by rights groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, according to the State Department. Nigerian officials have rejected those claims as "fabrications," Akwei said.

National pride also seems to be a factor, he said.

"The Nigerians have always felt themselves more capable and big enough and strong enough to take care of their own crises," Akwei said.

Yet the country still has no cohesive military strategy to turn the tide and protect the population, he said. "It's not the way a state functions if it hopes to survive, unless it's unaware of the gravity of the threat."

This article was originally in the Jan. 15, 2015 print edition of USA Today and other Gannett newspapers across the country including the Asbury Park Press, Camden Courier Post, Jersey Central Record, and others: 
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/01/14/boko-haram-baga-nigeria-weak-response/21696525/

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Marking Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy

2015/01/17

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) today honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the nation marks the federal holiday on Monday, January 19, 2015 in remembrance of an American who gave his life to the cause of justice and civil rights.
 
     “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a vital part of our national heritage,” said Smith. “It is celebrated in recognition of the character, accomplishments and ideals of a man who remains an irreplaceable part of the American endeavor to fight for the liberty and dignity of its citizens. Each of us must do our part to be sure that each successive generation of Americans is deeply aware and appreciative of the principles, actions and sacrifices of Dr. King, as our nation continues its struggle to live up to the ideas he championed.”
 
     In 1983, Smith voted to create the national holiday. He also voted in 1998 to approve the location of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the nation's capital (https://www.congress.gov/bill/105th-congress/house-joint-resolution/113/text.)

    In 2014, he supported legislation awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously to King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, who was also greatly dedicated to the cause, at a June 2014 ceremony. The law required that following award ceremony of the medal, that it be given to the Smithsonian Institution to be available for display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, or for appropriate loan to be displayed elsewhere, particularly at other appropriate locations associated with their lives.

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<span class="kicker">U.S. Rep. Smith on ‘Religious Freedom Day’: </span>Advancing Religious Liberty Worldwide Must Be a U.S. Priority

2015/01/16

The recent attacks in Paris and Nigeria remind us again that religious freedom and religious engagement need to be central pillars of U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy—we ignore this fact at our peril,” said Cong. Chris Smith, (NJ-04) Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights.

    “Too many people are jailed, suffer, or die for their faith every year,” said Smith. “There is mounting evidence showing that countries which restrict religious freedom experience higher levels of religious extremism and persecution. The U.S. government must do more to stop religious-related violence, the daily persecution of Christians and so many other religious groups, and a growing and ugly resurgence of anti-Semitism. The world is crying out for solutions and the U.S. must be the unequivocal leader in advancing religious liberty; it will be one of my priorities in the 114th Congress.”

    Among the priorities Cong. Smith will pursue in the new 114th Congress will be providing U.S. diplomats with more tools to fight religious persecution, terrorism, and sectarian violence (such as the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2014), fighting for the release of Pastor Abedini and other Americans in Iran, and protecting vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East, China, Vietnam, Central Asia, and Africa.

    Smith has promoted religious freedom and other human rights issues as chairman and co-chairman of the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.S. Commission on China.

    The origins of Religious Freedom Day are rooted in the Virginia General Assembly's adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. One of the first American laws to protect religious liberty, it was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison. National Religious Freedom Day was first proclaimed by President George H.W. Bush and first commemorated on January 16, 1993.

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Smith Cosponsors Veterans' Suicide Prevention Bill Passed by House

2015/01/15

    A bill to address the tragic suicide rate of the nation’s veterans was approved by the House tonight 403-0 and should be taken up by the Senate as soon as possible, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and an original cosponsor or the bill.

    “The men and women of our military make tremendous, selfless sacrifices on behalf of a grateful nation,” said Smith, who chaired the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee from 2001-2005 and authored more than a dozen veterans’ laws. “Congress has the sacred duty to ensure that we do everything in our power to get ours vets the physical and psychological support they need to transition back to—and integrate into—civilian life. More must be done to address the systematic failures that leave too many veterans behind and this bill is an important step in the right direction.”

      A 2012 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated that 22 veterans are lost each day to suicide, or over 8,000 per year, more than have been killed in action since 9/11.

    The bipartisan legislation, called the ‘‘Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act” is named in honor of the late Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran and suicide prevention advocate, Clay Hunt. It passed the House in the 113th Congress but stalled in the Senate. Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01) is the sponsor.

     H.R. 203 seeks to quell this growing epidemic by increasing access to mental health care, requiring the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans. The bill also requires evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care, and creates a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services.

    "The House passed this bipartisan bill in the last Congress in a unanimous vote in recognition of the need,” Smith said. “I urge the Senate to act swiftly and decisively on this bill—every day it waits, we lose another 22 heroes—and help strengthen the system to identify and assist those in need."

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<span class="kicker">Asbury Park Press article on NJ human trafficking victim who testified at 2014 Smith hearing</span>'Forced into prostitution, Pinelands grad warns others'

2015/01/10

BY APP STAFF WRITER AMANDA OGLESBY -

TUCKERTON – Holly Austin Smith thought she was running away from her Tuckerton home to a better life. She found, instead, a life of forced prostitution on the streets of Atlantic City.

She was 14 years old in 1992 when she ran away from her family, from a future at Pinelands Regional High School that frightened her, and from friends who bullied her. During the summer between the eighth and ninth grades, Smith met a man in his early 30s at the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing.

She spent two weeks confiding in him about her fears of high school and struggles with friends. He told her she was beautiful enough to be a model, talked about a glamorous nightlife he enjoyed with famous people and promised her a new life if she would only run away with him.

That summer she accepted his offer, but it did not take her to the night clubs of Los Angeles. Instead, she was on the streets of Atlantic City. Smith remembers how a woman in a motel room dressed her for what she then believed would be a night at the clubs. Reality sunk in when the man returned to the room and told her she had just a few hours to make hundreds of dollars.

"Then it dawned on me," Smith recalled, "he's talking about prostitution."

The point was driven home by threats of physical violence. Two days after she left home, police arrested Smith in Atlantic City and charged her with prostitution. Her parents had filed a missing persons report in Tuckerton, but the report never reached Atlantic City police 30 miles away.

"Those two days changed my life forever," Smith said. "I just listened to what they said and I totally followed them like a sheep."

Smith, 36, now an author and advocate, discussed her ordeal with a group of seniors at Pinelands Regional High School and Junior High School. She returned to the school -- a place she once fled -- Tuesday to warn nearly 600 students about the dangers of human trafficking and how children are lured into prostitution and sex slavery.

There are nearly 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, including hundreds of thousands of victims in the U.S., according to estimates by the Switzerland-based International Labour Organization. Some are taken for prostitution. Others work as slaves.

"It (human trafficking) is all around us," Smith said. "It's in our restaurants. It's in our communities. It's in our homes."

Runaway and homeless youth are particularly at risk, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. A 2000 study by the Center for Impact Research, a now defunct Chicago-based nonprofit working to combat poverty, found that 72 percent of the girls interviewed who had engaged in prostitution before the age of 15 in the greater Chicago area had run away from home.

Smith recalls the feelings that led up to her own decision to run away.

"I was very depressed," she recalled. "I was sad and angry."

Coupled with what she called her lack of assertiveness, Smith fell easy victim to the stranger's promises.

After her arrest and subsequent return to her family, Smith faced the additional hardship of being called a "hooker" by classmates upon on her first day at Pinelands Regional High School. She spent her freshman and sophomore years of high school attending class at small schools elsewhere to rebuild her self esteem. For a while, she blamed herself for what had happened, she said, thinking that it was her fault for giving the man her number at the mall and agreeing to run away with him.

But when she read her police reports, she learned that three people had been involved in the scheme.

"I didn't think it (human trafficking) happened so close," said Pinelands Regional senior Bryanna Rowe, 18, of Little Egg Harbor after listening to Smith's story. "It makes you think, who can you trust?"

Much has changed for Smith since that life-altering summer. She returned to Pinelands Regional High School for her last two years of high school. She graduated in 1996. Four years later, she graduated from Stockton College with a degree in biology and a minor in writing. She went on to write a nonfiction book on human trafficking called "Walking Prey: How America's Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery." Now she's a contributing writer for Elite Daily, a news and entertainment website for millennials.

"Holly Smith is a courageous survivor-turned-advocate who fights for victims of sex trafficking," New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith said in a prepared statement. The congressman chairs the House congressional panel that oversees global human rights, and is author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The act creates an office within the State Department that tracks and combats human trafficking in the U.S. and monitors trafficking that is happening worldwide. The act also funds a human trafficking hotline which received more than 750 calls from people in New Jersey between 2007 and 2013.

The hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is 888-373-7888.

"Holly testified at a hearing I chaired in 2014 about efforts to combat sex trafficking at SuperBowl XLVIII held in New Jersey and at other major sporting events around the world," Chris Smith said. "Her witness is powerful and her education efforts help tremendously as we continue to combat human trafficking and work to protect the victims who are primarily women and children."

The congressman is working on legislation to establish an international version of New Jersey's Megan's Law, a public sex offender registry named for Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old from Hamilton who was raped and killed in 1994. Chris Smith hopes an international version of the law will help protect women and children.

"Today, all 50 states have adopted a law like New Jersey's Megan's Law in the form of public sex offender registries," the congressman said. "International Megan's Law will use our public registries to warn destination countries when individuals with a history of sexually abusing children are headed their way — empowering those countries to protect their children from being purchased in sex tourism. In return, we ask that they warn us when their sex offenders are traveling to the U.S. so that we can protect American children from the sexual exploitation which Holly experienced."

"We're all survivors of something," said Holly Smith. "This experience does not have to define you. This experience can make you stronger. You're already a stronger person because you survived it."

Holly Austin Smith is the author of "Walking Prey: How America's Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery." She is also an advocate for immediate- and long-term resources for victims of human trafficking. In 2011, she presented joint testimony before Congress in support of the Trafficked Victims Protection Act, and spoke in 2012 before the Virginia General Assembly in support of educational programs on human trafficking for schools. Last year, she testified before the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would protect the victims of human trafficking.

 
This article was originally printed on Page 1 of the Asbury Park Press on Jan. 10, 2015:
 http://www.app.com/story/news/education/in-our-schools/2015/01/08/forced-prostitution-pinelands-grad-warns-students/21476319/

NOTE: Holly Smith and Rep. Chris Smith are of no relation
 
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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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