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2015

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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
Recognizing Ware County High School Robotics Team July 18, 2016
Buddy Carter, R-GA
"None"
Hope Deferred: Securing Enforcement Of The Goldman Act To Return Abducted American Children July 18, 2016
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, I want to thank everyone, especially all of the left-behind parents, who attended a hearing I convened last week to discuss what the U.S. Department of State’s second annual report under the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act tells us about the Department’s implementation of the Goldman Act thus far. On a positive note, the numbers of new abductions from the United States in 2015 remained below their pre-Goldman Act mark, probably due to increased abduction prevention. According to the report, 600 more children were abducted to other countries last year, quickly replacing the 299 children, abducted in various years, who were returned. Overall, approximately 1,000 children remain in a foreign country, separated from their American parent. As many of you have experienced, international parental child abduction rips children from their homes and whisks them away to a foreign land, alienating them from the love and care of the parent and family left behind. Child abduction is child abuse, and it continues to plague families across the United States. For decades, the State Department has used “quiet diplomacy” to attempt to bring these children home. In a hearing I held on this issue back in 2009, then-Assistant Secretary of State Bernie Aronson called quiet diplomacy “a sophisticated form of begging.” Thousands of American families still ruptured and grieving from years of unresolved abductions confirm that quiet diplomacy is gravely inadequate. In 2014, Congress unanimously passed the Goldman Act to give teeth to requests for return and access. The actions against non-cooperating governments required by the law escalate in severity, and range from official protests through diplomatic channels to the suspension of development, security, or other foreign assistance. Extradition of abducting parents also may be the case. The Goldman Act is a law calculated to get results, as we did in the return of Sean Goldman from Brazil in 2008. This year’s report, as required by the Goldman Act, singles out 19 countries in total, including India, Brazil, Japan, and Tunisia for failures to work with the United States in the return of abducted American children. For instance, the report notes 83 abductions to India still open at the end of the year—with 25 of those being new in 2015. Only one was closed with a court-ordered return to the United States. These numbers will continue to climb each year until India creates a mechanism for resolution. Right now India is a magnet for abductions because taking parents are almost guaranteed to get away with their crime. Brazil had 17 abduction cases open at the end of 2015 with a 27 percent resolution rate. Brazil has been a Convention partner with the United States since 2003, and yet consistently fails to comply with the Convention. Devon Davenport, who has testified before this Subcommittee, has won every one of his 24 appeals in Brazil’s Courts over the last 7 years—and yet he still cannot get his daughter Nadia home. If there was ever a textbook case for sanctions, Brazil is it—they have met the legal threshold 10 times over. The Report lists Japan as a “country that has failed to comply with one or more of its Hague Convention obligations”, specifically “in the area of enforcement of return orders.” Multiple parents have won pyrrhic victories in court, only to discover Japan has what the report calls “systemic flaws” with enforcement. What remains inexplicable is why Japan was kept off the list of non-compliant countries for a second year in a row when even the State Department condemned them for “systemic flaws” in their ability to enforce court orders to return U.S. children. Failure to enforce return orders is an automatic trigger for landing on the non-compliant list. One parent had to go outside the Convention framework to achieve enforcement in an extraordinary case resolved after the reporting period. The report should have also counted against Japan the 40 pre-Convention abduction cases it mentions as still pending—most of them for more than 5 years. Countries should be listed as worst offenders if they have high numbers of cases—30 percent or more—that have been pending more than a year. Countries also may be so listed if their law enforcement, judiciary, or central authority for abduction regularly fails in their duties under The Hague Convention or other controlling agreement; or if the country simply fails to work with the U.S. to resolve cases. Accurate reporting, including inclusion on the worst offenders list, is critical to family court judges across the country and parents considering their child’s travel to a foreign country where abduction or access problems are a risk. However, reporting is just step one. Once these countries are properly classified, the Secretary of State then determines which of the aforementioned actions the U.S. will apply to the country in order to encourage the timely resolution of cases. Such actions could bring an end to the nightmare of the Elias family, whose children, Jade and Michael, have been missing in Japan for 8 years. Such actions could end the nightmares of any of the parents who shared their stories at last week’s hearing."
Victims In China, Cuba, Malaysia Ill-Served By Trafficking In Persons Report July 18, 2016
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 launched a bold comprehensive public-private sector strategy that included sheltering, political asylum, and other protections for the victims; long jail sentences and asset confiscation for the traffickers; a myriad of preventative initiatives and tough sanctions for governments that failed to meet minimum standards prescribed in the TVPA. As the prime sponsor of that law, which also created the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report and tier rankings, I remain deeply disappointed and concerned that both last year’s TIP Report and the current one gave passing grades to several nations with horrific records of government complicity in human trafficking. Falsifying a country’s human trafficking record not only undermines the credibility of the report but was especially dehumanizing to the victims who suffer rape, cruelty and horrifying exploitation. The politically contrived passing grades for more than a dozen failing governments was exposed by a series of investigative reports by Reuters, which found that the professionals at the State Department’s TIP office made one set of recommendations—only to be overruled at a higher level for political reasons. A hearing I held last week looked closely at the newly released Trafficking in Persons Report, which assesses and ranks 188 countries each year on their records of prosecuting traffickers, protecting victims, and preventing human trafficking. Sadly, this year’s TIP Report has again failed many victims. Some of the rankings comport with the records of certain countries. Burma and Uzbekistan, for example, are designated Tier 3—as they should be. But other nations including trading partners Malaysia and China are given a free pass despite their horrific records of government complicity in human trafficking. Cuba, a dictatorship highly favored by this administration, is again falsely touted with a passing grade. China was also allowed to keep its Tier 2 Watch List ranking, despite the fact that the reason for their upgrade two years ago was found to be a fraud. Alexandra Harney, Jason Szep, and Matt Spetalnick of Reuters authored an expose on China’s politicized ranking, finding that, “Two years after China announced it was ending the “re-education through labor” system, extrajudicial networks of detention facilities featuring torture and forced labor thrive in its place.” China had deceived the U.S. in 2014, and when that became apparent last year—we let them keep their ill-gotten upgrade in 2015, and again in 2016. I chair the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and based on both sex and labor trafficking, China deserves a Tier 3 ranking—egregious violator— as much if not more than any other nation on the list. Malaysia, whose ranking was upgraded to the Tier 2 Watch List last year on the flimsiest of justifications and fears it would be disqualified from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was allowed to maintain its Tier 2 Watch List ranking—despite the fact that Malaysia faltered in its anti-trafficking progress over the last year. In fact, Malaysia, a country with 4 million migrant workers, prosecuted fewer trafficking cases and convicted only 7 traffickers last year—that’s less than when it was a Tier 3 country. Meanwhile, women from Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Nepal are trafficked to China for forced marriages or sexual exploitation. North Korean laborers worked under conditions described by experts as forced or slave labor to earn income for the North Korean government. Prisoners of conscience and other prisoners continue to be held in administration detention facilities where there are numerous credible reports of prisoners being trafficked for the purpose of organ harvesting. The State Department must get the TIP Report right, or we will lose the foundational tool created to help the more than 20 million victims of trafficking enslaved around the world today. A tier ranking is about protecting vulnerable lives—lives destroyed or saved by the on-the-ground impact of a government’s inaction or action. The easiest cases for a Tier 3 ranking should be those where the government itself is profiting from human trafficking, such as in Cuba, where thousands of Cuban medical professionals labor in dangerous countries not of their choosing, their passports taken, their movements restricted, their families and licenses threatened—and their salaries heavily garnished—by the Cuban government. It is not a coincidence that Cuban law does not recognize labor trafficking. Maria Werlau testified at our hearing in March that, “… trafficking is a huge operation run by the government through numerous state enterprises with … accomplices, participants, sponsors, and promoters all over the world.” Cuba is also a known destination for child sex tourists, and Cuba reports no convictions for child sex tourism. Yet, Cuba is ranked Tier 2 Watch List. We’ve seen many countries take a Tier 3 ranking seriously and make real, systemic changes that improved their tier rankings, but more importantly, protected trafficking victims—countries such as South Korea and Israel. When the Bush administration branded South Korea and Israel Tier 3 based on their records, both countries enacted and implemented policies to combat human trafficking and were given earned upgrades for their verifiable actions. But other countries attempt to end-run the accountability system with endless, empty promises of action or mostly meaningless gestures of compliance. China sat on the Tier 2 Watch List for eight years, each year promising the State Department they would implement their anti-trafficking plan. Each year, the State Department took the bait until Congress put a limit on the Tier 2 Watch List—two years only, unless the President gives the country a waiver. Well, China has once again promised to implement a plan—and the President just gave them a waiver to stay on the Watch List a third year. Tier rankings are about real prosecutions, real prevention, and real protection—for real people who are suffering as slaves. The TIP Report was meant to speak for the trafficking victims waiting, hoping, and praying for relief. While the 2016 TIP Report speaks for many of them, too many are still unheard."
The Castro Regime’S Ongoing Violations Of Civil And Political Rights July 18, 2016
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, it has been one year and eight months since President Obama announced a major change in our country’s policy towards Cuba. It has been eleven months since Secretary Kerry visited Havana and reopened our embassy. And it has been nearly four months since our President visited Cuba. Clearly, a lot has changed in just over a year and a half. But for the people of Cuba, what has changed? At a hearing I convened last week, we examined the sorry state of civil and political rights in the Castro brothers’ Cuba, and how, despite all the promises by this administration that an opening to Cuba will lead to a greater opening domestically for the Cuban people we still see political repression—including, it must be noted, repression directed at the Afro-Cuban population. This is not the first time this subcommittee has expressed concern about the lack of openness to democracy and dissent in Cuba. In fact, one of our witnesses, the courageous Dr. Oscar Biscet, offered dramatic testimony before this subcommittee in February of 2012, when he testified via telephone from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana after evading the Cuban police to get there. Likewise, on February 5, 2015 we held a hearing entitled “Human Rights in Cuba: An opportunity squandered,” wherein we asked whether the Obama administration had used the considerable leverage that it wields to seek to better the condition of the Cuban people, or whether it was squandering the opportunity. Since then, our fear that the administration has not been pushing sufficiently for the release of political prisoners and other human rights concerns has only grown, with the focus on Obama’s “legacy” instead of the Cuban people. For example, when President Obama made his visit to Cuba, he and Raul Castro appeared in a photo op press conference. CNN’s Jim Acosta, much to his credit, asked the hard question about Cuba’s political prisoners. Raul Castro, much to his discredit, denied that there were ANY political prisoners in Cuba. “Give me a list of the political prisoners and I will release them immediately,” Castro taunted. “Just mention the list.” And President Obama just stood there. Well, Mr. President, I have a list, of more than fifty political prisoners compiled by my good friend and colleague Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. This is a list that President Obama should have had in breast pocket, ready to pull out when Raul Castro dared him to call his bluff. When I came to Congress in 1981, with Ronald Reagan, in the days of the old Soviet Union, one of the first issues I worked on was the plight of Soviet Jews and refusniks who were either imprisoned or not allowed to leave the Soviet Union. I recall George Shultz, when he was Secretary of State, saying that whenever he met with his Soviet counterpart, and from him down to the lowest State Department officer, he would bring with him a list of imprisoned dissidents and human rights advocates. Front and center of any discussion, whether about nuclear arms or tensions in the Middle East, Secretary Shultz would bring up dissidents, naming them by name. It was this constant focus on human rights that helped move the Soviet government to allow Jews and others to leave the Soviet Union, people such as the great Natan Sharansky. And I have another list of names, that of six members of the Cuban National Front of Civic Resistance who have applied for visas to come to the United States but for some reason, inexplicably, our State Department has refused to allow to visit the United States. These are: Orlando Gomez Echavarria Jose Alberto Alvarez Bravo Yaite Diasnell Cruz Sosa Yoel Bravo Lopez Lazaro Ricardo Fiallo Lopez Ciro Aleixis Casanova Perez I call upon Secretary Kerry to allow these brave people entry to the United States, so that they can meet with me and my colleagues and enlighten us further as to the current state of affairs in Cuba. Finally, I note that the administration has failed to secure the release of fugitives from justice such as Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. The administration must insist upon the unconditional return of Chesimard and all other fugitives from justice, as well as demand that the Castro regime respect the civil and political rights of the Cuban people, before making any further concessions. And to underscore the point, unconditional means unconditional—there should be no “swap” whereby we exchange convicted Cuban spies Ana Montes or Kendall Meyers for these fugitives as a concession to the Castro regime. The effect of that would be to trade Americans who have committed crimes in the United States for other Americans who have committed crimes in the United States, demoralizing our intelligence community further in the process. With that, I want to turn to our witnesses, noting as I do that last week, on July 13, it was the anniversary of the tugboat massacre of 1994, when 37 victims, including 11 children, were killed by the regime. How little has changed for the Cuban people."
Rare Pediatric Priority Review Voucher Program July 15, 2016
G. Butterfield, D-NC
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my hope that the House of Representatives will reauthorize the Rare Pediatric Priority Review Voucher (PRV) Program before its expiration deadline of September 30, 2016. I urge my colleagues to consider and pass H.R. 1537, the Advancing Hope Act of 2015 which I introduced with Representative Michael McCaul (TX-10) and would permanently reauthorize the Rare Pediatric PRV Program."

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