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Public Statements

Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. BURRIS. I thank the Chair.

Madam President, this past Monday evening, as dusk fell on my hometown of Chicago, a handful of young people took to the streets with violent intentions.

By the time the sun came up on Tuesday, no fewer than seven people had been shot, in a series of unrelated incidents.

This wave of violent crime continued into Tuesday afternoon, when three more Chicagoans were shot and killed in broad daylight.

These incidents came right on the heels of another shocking murder. Last week, a police officer and Iraq War veteran named Thomas Wortham IV was shot to death only a few blocks from my home.

These events do not occur in a vacuum. They are part of a clear and consistent pattern, a pandemic of gun violence that holds communities in a vice grip. Every year, with the advent of the long, hot summer, gang activity spikes. The line between good and bad neighborhoods evaporates. In essence, our streets become a war zone. This is not a passing concern; it is an emergency. This kind of violence should be shocking. It should spark outrage and indignation. Yet too many of us turn a blind eye. We are paralyzed by the destructive political process and numb to the consequences of our failure to take action.

This problem can't simply be passed on to someone else. This violence is happening in our cities and towns, where we live and where we work, where we send our children to school. It is happening in our backyards. So it
is up to us to raise the alarm. It is our responsibility to stem this rising tide and take back our communities, our homes, our schools, and our places of worship. We have seen that this is a pattern. We have witnessed the terrible outcomes and measured the tragic human cost. Now it is time to take action.

Certainly, we can make progress by increasing gun control and making it more difficult for weapons to fall into the hands of criminals. This effort must be a part of any comprehensive solution, and it is an issue I have fought for throughout my career. But the reality is, a debate about gun control will quickly turn into a pitched partisan battle. It will consume time and political will, and in the end, we may not get very far.

I believe we need to take a more practical, more immediate approach. It is time to give our young people an alternative to destructive behavior so they can spend their summers working to get ahead instead of getting involved in criminal activities. Today, more than half of Black men between the ages of 16 and 19 are unemployed. This number is growing rapidly. In fact, the New York Times predicts that this summer will be one of the bleakest on record. So if we would like to cut down on violent crime, this is exactly where we need to start.

It is no accident that last year's landmark American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included a major summer jobs component. It created more than 300,000 summer jobs for youth across the country, including some 17,000 in Illinois alone.

This year, we need to do even more. That is why I am proud to cosponsor S. 2923, the Youth Jobs Act of 2010, introduced by the distinguished Senator from Washington, Mrs. Murray. This legislation would build on the success of the Recovery Act, setting aside $1.5 billion for youth employment opportunities through the Workforce Investment Act. It would infuse money directly into the local economy and give young people the chance to gain paid work experience, what Senator Reid spoke about the other day, the gentleman who set up a work opportunity and found out that the youth don't even have the work experience or they don't even know how to work. We have to get them some paid work experience. This will keep them off the streets in the short term and give them better employment options down the road. It would create half a million summer jobs from coast to coast and put a serious dent in the youth unemployment rate. It will spur young people to invest in their future and help foster a better community.

I urge my colleagues to pass this bill without delay. We can do this right now. It will cut down on violent crime and have a real effect on people's lives across America. There is no reason to wait another day or another moment. That is why I am so frustrated by the obstructionism that has afflicted this legislation for the past 6 months.

It is time to make a commitment to the next generation, give them the opportunity to start down the right path because if we don't, then every summer, when the school year ends and children seek new ways to occupy their time, more and more of them will find fellowship with the criminal element. This cycle of violence will continue.

I urge colleagues to pass the Youth Jobs Act before we adjourn for the Memorial Day recess. Let's provide our young people with the opportunity to turn away from violence. Let's give them a chance to build a constructive future. Let's take back our communities. Let's do it now. Let's do it today.


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