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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
Human Rights In Cuba: A Squandered Opportunity February 27, 2015
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I held a hearing to examine the state of human rights in Cuba, which is a very timely topic indeed, given the Obama administration’s sea change in policy toward Cuba announced at the end of last year. I have repeatedly asked whether in undertaking this change in policy, the Obama administration used the considerable leverage that it wields to seek to better the condition of the Cuban people, or whether, as I fear, an opportunity was squandered in its haste to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough and create a legacy for the President. The hearing was not only about Castro regime accountability, but also Obama administration accountability, with Congress exercising its role of both oversight and as a bully pulpit for reminding the world that Cuba remains a Communist dictatorship which continues to arrest political dissidents—over 200 so far in 2015—and one whose caudillo, Raul Castro, has declared would not change, even in response to the Obama administration’s concessions. This Castro regime continues to harbor fugitives from justice such as Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted in the 1973 murder of a state trooper in my home state of New Jersey, Officer Werner Foerster. Indeed, earlier this month, we had the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson appear before the full Foreign Affairs Committee. I asked her what the response of the Cuban Government was when she raised the issue of the return of Joanne Chesimard to justice. She replied that the Cuban Government stated that it was “not interested in discussing her return.” This is unacceptable. I received a statement from Christopher J. Burgos, the President of the State Troopers Fraternal Organization of New Jersey, wherein he states on behalf of our Jersey State Troopers that “We are shocked and very disappointed that returning a convicted killer of a State Trooper was not already demanded and accomplished in the context of the steps announced by the White House regarding this despotic dictatorship.” We had with us three very brave and uniquely qualified witnesses to the brutality of the Cuban dictatorship, three human rights activists who at great personal cost to themselves and their families stood up for human dignity. We heard about the deplorable state of human rights in Cuba, how Afro-Cubans in particular face discrimination on a day-to-day basis, and the brutality with which human rights activists, including women, are treated. We heard of murders sanctioned by the government, of beatings, of arrests and re-arrests. And I would also like to point out that after testifying here, in public, two of our witnesses returned to Cuba. They know that one day the regime will exact a price against them for their temerity. Yet they insisted on appearing, so that they can share the truth of what is happening in their beloved isle. What bravery! I therefore would like to dedicate the hearing I held to the Cuban people, who have suffered for so many decades under the brutal regime of the Castro brothers, and to thank our witnesses for testifying. I also would like to thank in particular my dear friend and colleague, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, for her leadership day-in-and-day-out, in good weather and in bad, on behalf of the people of not only Cuba, but in countries such as Venezuela, China, and Vietnam, where the people continue to suffer under oppressive rulers. Thank you, Ileana, for your leadership and moral clarity. It is thus my belief that there should be no easing of the pressure until Cuba has met definitive and concrete human rights and democratic milestones. Among these milestones are the release of all political prisoners, the end of harassment and a policy of releasing and then re-jailing, the ending of restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, and on the rights of Assembly. Moreover, the Church must be allowed to conduct its affairs fully and freely without government interference. And, finally, the Castro regime must be held to account for their harboring of some seventy fugitives from justice, including Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list. To that end, I would like to state that I intend to introduce legislation that will complement our existing legislation on Cuba, in particular Helms-Burton, making sure that important human rights milestones are met before our government makes concessions that are effectively unilateral, squandering leverage."
The Acknowledgement Of Broadcasters’ Contributions To Their Local Communities February 25, 2015
Hank Johnson, D-GA
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today to formally recognize the contribution of broadcasters across the country and from my home state of Georgia. Every community is impacted by broadcasters, the individuals who have dedicated their lives to disseminating important information by radio and television. As north Georgia prepares for snow, ice and sleet today and tonight—broadcasters are my constituents’ go-to source for the latest on road conditions, power outages and school closings. We turn to broadcasters first—whether we are in our cars listening to the radio, or watching the news on television at home."
Funding The Department Of Homeland Security February 25, 2015
Ann Kuster, D-NH
"Whether they serve in the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, or elsewhere, the men and women who work for the Department of Homeland Security in my home State of New Hampshire and across this country play a vital role in keeping our families safe; yet Congress is poised to shut down DHS this Friday for partisan political reasons."
The Future Forum February 25, 2015
Seth Moulton, D-MA
"If Congress fails to fund the Department of Homeland Security, agencies and grant programs critical to the safety of Americans will no longer be able to carry out the responsibilities that they were created to uphold, including the TSA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the United States Coast Guard. 85% of all enlisted Coast Guard personnel do not live on base—they cannot afford to miss a rent or mortgage payment on their homes. Many Americans don’t realize this, but not only are Coast Guardsmen important to the safety of fishermen in my home state of Massachusetts and to all coastal states, but they are also deployed globally alongside our military in support of critical national security missions."
Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015—Motion To Proceed—Continued February 25, 2015
Edward Markey, D-MA
"The people in my home State of Massachusetts are suffering from the second snowiest winter in our history. We have endured more than 8 feet of snow. Those snow piles are climbing even higher. Seawalls that protect our shores are crumbling. Roofs are collapsing. Homes are being destroyed. Small businesses are shuttered while owners struggle to make ends meet. Cities and towns across the Commonwealth have overspent their budgets by tens of millions of dollars responding to one snowstorm after another."

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