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Engel Remarks at Full Committee Markup

ENGEL REMARKS AT FULL COMMITTEE MARKUP

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in support of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R. 1150), the Strategy to Oppose Predatory Organ Trafficking Act (H.R. 3694), the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 (H.R. 4939), a resolution reaffirming U.S.-Taiwanese relations (H.Con.Res.88), and a bill providing authority for successors and assigns of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company to maintain and operate a toll bridge across the Rio Grande (S.2143):

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening this markup.  We have a slate of good, bipartisan measures that we’re taking up today. 

“And thank you especially for calling up the Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act, which I was proud to introduce recently with Representative Ros-Lehtinen.

“As this Committee well knows, it’s a big world with a lot of challenges—some that get more attention than others.  So it’s important to stay focused on our neighbors in the Caribbean.  These countries are profoundly important to the United States.  My own district in New York has a sizable diaspora population from Caribbean countries, and I hear from these proud and engaged communities very often.

“This bill makes it clear that U.S.-Caribbean relations are a major priority.  It directs the State Department and USAID to devise a multiyear strategy for engaging with Caribbean governments.  We want to put a particular focus on improving energy security, strengthening the rule of law, reducing drug trafficking, and enhancing economic cooperation.

“We want to ramp up diplomatic engagement, especially when it comes to key issues at the United Nations and the Organization of American States, and with the five Caribbean countries where the United States still doesn’t have embassies, and, I might add, should have embassies as soon as possible.

“We’ll end up with the best policy if we shape it in consultation with the many Caribbean-American citizens in the United States.  It’s a strength for us to have such a strong and vibrant diaspora community.  So this bill also calls for revitalized outreach to this community, seeking greater input on ideas for economic development and citizen security.

“So Mr. Chairman, again, thank you for moving this legislation so quickly.  I ask that all members support it.

“Next, I’ll turn to Mr. Smith’s International Religious Freedom Act.  I want to thank him for all his hard work on this issue.  Thank you, Mr. Smith. 

“The freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Yet around the world, religious communities are subjected to escalating violence and persecution.  In the 21st century, it is unacceptable for anyone to suffer discrimination because of how they worship, or, for that matter, if they choose not to worship at all.

“The United States has a responsibility to speak out when we see basic freedoms under threat.  And this bill will help the Administration promote religious freedom around the world.  So I support this bill, and I also support continuing to fully fund the Human Rights and Democracy Fund for all human rights abuses.

“I’ll now turn to the bill offered by Mr. Trott and Mr. Deutch aimed at cracking down on predatory organ trafficking.  This legislation would change our human-trafficking law to include the trafficking of persons for the removal of their organs.

“We don’t know much about this crime.  Who are the victims?  How did they get trapped by this illegal trade?  What are governments doing to halt the practice, track down those responsible, and provide services to survivors?  If this is a pervasive problem, then yes, of course, we must act.

“This bill calls for a report on this crime so that we gain a fuller understanding of the problem.  While I have questions about including these provisions as part of our global efforts to confront modern slavery, I am glad that we’re working on the issue.

“Moving to Mr. Chabot’s measure, I’m happy to support this resolution reaffirming the close ties between the United States and Taiwan.  This is an exciting time for the Taiwanese people.  Next month, a new President will be sworn in—the first woman to be elected President there.  (I could add so that the Taiwanese are ahead of us by a few months.)  I had the pleasure of meeting with her several times before the election, and I’m very hopeful for her success.

“As Taiwan’s democracy prepares for a political transition, it’s important that the United States signal our unwavering support for Taiwan.  For Taiwan’s defense, for its participation on the global stage, for its robust democracy.  And so this resolution reaffirms our commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances.  These are the measures that have underpinned our relationship with the Taiwanese people since we normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China.

“Those ties remain deeply important to this day, and I’m glad to support this resolution. The Chairman and I have talked about this a great time and we both believe it’s important for the United States to stand squarely with our friend and ally, Taiwan.

“Lastly, I’m glad to support this bill from my good friend, Representative Cuellar, which would allow the Starr-Carmargo Bridge to continue as an important connection between the United States and Mexico.  I have to say, at a time when we hear so much about building walls, it feels pretty good to talk about strengthening bridges.

“The Starr-Camargo Bridge connects Rio Grande, Texas with Monterrey and Ciudad Camargo in Mexico.  Under current law, the authority to operate this bridge will expire in 16 years.  Though it seems like a long way off, that end date has already started to constrain investments in long-term improvements.  This legislation would eliminate that expiration date, just as we’ve done for the Weslaco-Progreso International Bridge.

“This bill doesn’t cost U.S. taxpayers a penny.  And in the midst of a lot of ugly rhetoric, it sends a clear signal: Mexico is an extremely important partner to the United States, and bridges—not barriers—will help that friendship to thrive.

“So I agree with the Chairman.  I urge support for this measure, and all the things contained in this measure.  And I thank you again, Mr. Chairman.  I yield back.”