Washington Review, July 15, 2016
These past two weeks in Washington I participated in a number of hearings, held several meetings, and attended an event hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).
Last week, I attended a hearing held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs focused on the ongoing obstacles to peace between Israel and Palestine. One major challenge to resolving the conflict stems from the Palestinian Authority’s policy of providing financial incentives and benefits to incite terrorist acts. During the hearing, I questioned the experts on what role the international community could play in creating a more stable environment and encouraging a path towards peace.
This week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing to examine the increase in human rights violations around the world. Freedom House reported 2015 as the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom with both state and non-state actors oppressing civilians and stripping them of their basic freedoms. I am disturbed by this trend and questioned the experts on how the United States’ selective sanctioning and assistance policies have impacted our credibility and ability to pressure those who commit human rights violations.
On Wednesday afternoon, I participated in a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. The hearing focused on the deterioration of the human rights situation in Cuba following the President’s visit earlier this year. We were able to hear personal accounts from the panel of witnesses, including Dr. Oscar Biscet, a political prisoner and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, who testified to the Castro Regime’s continued disregard for the civil and political rights of the Cuban people. I urged the Administration to hold the Castro Regime responsible and pressure them to improve the standard of living and protect the basic freedoms of those still living on the island.
Also this week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a markup to review various pieces of legislation. Among the legislation we reviewed was H.R. 4481, the Education for All Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). This act seeks to ensure that U.S. policy contributes to a successful international effort to provide all children with a high quality primary education. It would also assist developing countries in strengthening their educational systems as well as monitor and evaluate the quality and effectiveness of basic education programs. We also considered H.Res.750, introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), which urges the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and increase pressure on it and its members. I am a cosponsor of H.Res.750 which would request that the European Union not make a distinction between the military and political wings of Hizballah when considering the organization’s acts of terror. This resolution and H.R. 4481 were both passed out of the Committee and await further action in the House of Representatives.
On Thursday, I participated in a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing examining the strategic importance of building a stronger U.S.-Caribbean partnership. The Caribbean is a very diverse region that has important economic, cultural, political, and security ties to the United States. We must work with our neighbors in the region to help them diversify energy sources, strengthen their economies, and build upon mutual security interests. I questioned the panel of experts about the impact of different aspects of U.S. policy and how we may continue to engage our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. Last month, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 4939, the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, introduced by Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), which seeks to increase U.S. engagement in the region. I look forward to working with my colleagues to remain engaged in the Western Hemisphere and strengthen our partnership with our Caribbean neighbors.
On Tuesday, I met with David Gonzalez and Rondu Vincent from Bristol-Myers Squibb, a global BioPharma company, to discuss their work and presence in New Jersey. I also joined some of my colleagues to meet with the Honduran President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and receive an update on the continuing efforts to reform the Honduran security forces and reduce corruption.
On Wednesday morning, I met with the New Jersey 4-H Youth Delegation, to talk about their experiences with 4-H as well as agriculture, leadership, and issues that are important for students in NJ. Next, His Excellency Hugo Martinez, El Salvador’s Foreign Minister visited my office to discuss recent developments in public security as well as how our nations can continue to work together to respond to issues in the region.
I also had the opportunity to meet with New Jersey students who were in Washington, D.C. to participate in the Close Up Foundation’s annual Bank of America Student Leaders Summit. Close Up programs seek to inspire students by providing them with skills and experiences so that they may express their views on policy and become active members of our democracy.
I also met with Ranil Jayawardena, a Member of the British Parliament representing North East Hampshire. Mr. Jayawardena visited my office as part of the British American Parliamentary Group to discuss the ongoing partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom. Next, New Jersey members of the Girl Up Campaign met with me to discuss the global lack of access to education and basic services. Finally, Mayor Cesar Falla of Chincha, Peru, met with me to provide an update on issues affecting his city and to discuss recent developments in the region.
On Wednesday, I spoke at the Congressional Breakfast for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s (CHCI) Ready to Lead Next Generation Program. It was an honor to address a room of aspiring leaders and share my experiences with them. I look forward to seeing how they will continue to contribute to their communities and impact our nation as they look to the future.