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Madam Speaker, yesterday, March 15, was Florida's Day of Action to raise awareness about the sham elections in Sudan which are scheduled for next month. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in the year 2005, the dream of a united Sudan, where everyone--regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion--lived in freedom, it seemed possible. Elections were intended to usher that change.
Unfortunately, the Sudanese Government has since proven that it will do anything to remain in power--including slaughtering civilians and stealing elections. Southern parties have committed abuses, but it is Sudan's tyrant--an indicted war criminal--who remains the greatest obstacle to peace.
The time for wishful thinking is over. These elections are a sham, hijacked to legitimize the rule of a reprehensible, murderous regime. Responsible nations must work to ensure Sudan's butcher answers for his crimes before this process moves forward.
So congratulations to the many Floridians who spearheaded the Day of Action yesterday.
And speaking of Floridians, our State is hurting. Our economy is in serious trouble. Floridians ask what is the best way to put Floridians back to work without increasing our mounting national debt. The latest national unemployment record shows that we're still facing an almost 10-percent unemployment statistic. And totally unacceptable is Florida's numbers. Florida's number, 11.8 percent unemployment rate in my home State of Florida.
How can we fix this problem? Part of it deals with what U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said, and it was an important and very timely message. He said, Trade supports millions of U.S. jobs and expanding trade must be part of the U.S. economy. Congress needs to support long-delayed trade pacts with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, which will greatly expand access to oversea markets for Florida businesses.
While these agreements are stalling here in Washington, our competitors are cutting their own deals to open more markets for their exporters. The European Union, for example, has concluded an agreement with South Korea--similar to the one that has been languishing here in Washington, DC.
Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the trade industry. In my home State of Florida, we exported more than $47 billion in goods last year. South Florida is the gateway to Latin America, and it's a huge hub for trade with Colombia, which has already produced thousands of jobs in key industries, such as the flower-importing industry. Trade is a crucial part of our economic recovery and an ideal opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work together on an important issue.
It's so important to my home State of Florida, which brings me to another national issue that is crucial to my State of Florida, and that is a complete and accurate census count. We must mobilize everyone to participate in the 2010 census and help increase funding for education, health care, transportation, and other key programs while ensuring that our area will get the programs it deserves.
Having represented a diverse area such as South Florida here in Congress, I know that we need to reach out to residents of low-income and minority neighborhoods, which are especially at risk of being undercounted in the 2010 census. Along with many other metropolitan areas, Miami-Dade County will have a bilingual, English and Spanish, census form, as well as a special census outreach effort to the Colombian, to the Haitian, to the Cuban communities, among many different ethnic groups in our community and in our Nation.
Accurate data reflecting changes in our diverse and ever-changing communities will decide how over $400 billion per year is spent in Federal grants and how it's allocated for programs like new hospitals and schools.
So your assistance, South Florida, with a complete census count will help ensure that essential social service programs like job training, after-school programs, school lunch programs, senior citizen centers, they will receive the funding they deserve. So please help us kick off our efforts to get the most complete census count in history. Floridians, get on board.
And I am so proud of the many Floridians who do amazing things every day.
In my congressional district of South Florida, Madam Speaker, extraordinary groups such as Teens Against Domestic Abuse, otherwise known as T-A-D-A--TADA--are working to raise awareness about domestic abuse. And TADA is a local student activist group run by a caring and passionate young woman, Emily Martinez-Lanza.
So I thank the exemplary work of Floridians. From the Call of Action on Sudan, to the economy, to the census, to combating domestic abuse, Floridians are hard at work.