Washington Review, June 22,2018
There was a lot of action in Washington this week as the House of Representatives considered immigration legislation, reconsidered the Farm Bill, and passed numerous bills related to the opioid crisis. Additionally, I attended hearings on U.S. policy in Afghanistan and pipeline safety, and held a number of meetings with diverse groups representing constituents from the 8th District, citizens around the country, and international delegations.
This week, I believe that the Administration created a humanitarian crisis by forcibly separating children from their parents at the border that I view as a strategy to curb illegal immigration. It is inconceivable that in a nation that represents freedom and opportunity, we are creating an environment in which children, some younger than a year, are being taken from their parents and detained in caged facilities. I witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by this brutal policy when I spoke with fathers being detained by ICE in Elizabeth, NJ who had been separated from their children.
The Administration issued an executive order (EO) purporting to end family separation, which I believe to be a hollow attempt to reverse course. However, it remains to be seen whether this EO will in fact end the family separation policy, and does nothing to rectify the situation of many families who have already been separated. Also, it is important to note that this EO lays the groundwork for a policy of prolonged detention, by ordering the detention of families throughout the duration of criminal and immigration proceedings. In light of this week’s actions, I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 6135, the Keep Families Together Act. This legislation would prohibit the mass family separation that I feel is a direct result of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy.
After Democratic members have called for months now to address the situation with DACA, the House finally voted on one piece of immigration legislation this week. However, I believe this radical bill was a sorry excuse for immigration reform, that would do nothing to address the current challenges facing our immigration system and instead included many anti-immigrant riders. H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act of 2018, would have attempted to dismantle legal immigration channels, failed to protect Dreamers, criminalized unlawful presence, and limited asylum seekers and attacks sanctuary cities. I vehemently opposed this bill and, fortunately, it failed by a vote of 193 to 231.
H.R. 2, the disastrous Farm Bill which would decimate nutrition assistance programs, was again brought up for reconsideration in the House after initially failing by a vote of 198 to 213 last month. This bill would cripple some of America’s most vulnerable communities by targeting nutrition assistance with $23 billion in cuts that children, seniors, students, veterans, working families, and individuals with disabilities rely on. Furthermore, the bill inadequately addresses safety net programs for farmers, and nearly eliminates rural development initiatives. This Farm Bill is a bad deal for America, which is why I once again opposed this destructive legislation. Unfortunately, the Farm Bill passed narrowly by a vote of 213 to 211, and now awaits further action in the Senate.
The House this week also took up over a dozen bills related to addressing the opioid crisis. One bipartisan bill, H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, includes a number of provisions to expand access to treatment including expanding Medicare coverage of Opioid Treatment Programs and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), expanding the type of providers who can treat patients with MAT, and expanding Medicaid coverage for foster youth. This bill, along with numerous others, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 396 to 14 and now awaits further action in the Senate.
The Foreign Affairs Committee this week examined U.S. policy towards Afghanistan by speaking with the Honorable Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. I asked the Ambassador about the impact of increasing fragmentation of Afghan society along ethnic lines is having on stability and what the United States is doing to curb opium production in the country.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials also received an update from experts on the implementation of the PIPES Act of 2016. This bill, passed by Congress authorized pipeline safety programs intended to address the growing number of accidents related to pipelines. I expressed my concerns to the Administrator of the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration about the safety of and maintenance of these pipelines in population dense urban communities, such as those found in the 8th District.
This week, I welcomed local groups to my Washington D.C. office to discuss their priorities. First, I welcomed representatives of Alzheimer’s New Jersey to discuss their work helping those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia in New Jersey. I reiterated my support for Alzheimer’s research funding and requested that the Appropriations Labor, Health, and Human Services Subcommittee include a $414 million increase for Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for fiscal year (FY) 2019.
Then, I welcomed Elena Castaneda, a small business owner from North Bergen, New Jersey who shared with me the story of her business growth and the opportunities afforded small business owners by digital marketplaces.
Several international groups met with me this week. First, I welcomed a Trade Delegation from Taiwan to discuss ways to bolster U.S.-Taiwan business. I then met Mr. Robert Marro from the Burma Task Force to review the ongoing Rohingya crisis in Burma. I am a cosponsor of several resolutions and pieces of legislation calling for an end to the persecution of the Rohingya people and sanctioning Burmese security force officials engaged in human rights abuses.
New Jersey has a robust Coptic Christian community, and I am an advocate for the protection of Coptic Christians in Egypt. On Thursday, it was my honor to be able to speak to the Coptic community at a solidarity event on the Hill.
Weeks like this can be action packed when policy can change at the drop of a hat. To get the most up to date information on my responses to these current events, be sure to follow me on my social media channels and my website, which are listed below. I work hard to ensure that you are kept in the loop about all my work here in Washington D.C.
Thank you for reading the Washington Review. Again, hearing from my constituents enables me to be a better representative of the 8th District. For regular updates, you may stay in touch by leaving comments on my Facebook, Twitter, and website.