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Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington DC

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Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, if I might, let me first thank Katharine Beamer for her service to the Senate and to the American people. She has been an incredibly valuable part of my staff, detailed from the Department of State to my Senate office. She has helped me deal with preparations for my responsibility, as the Presiding Officer knows, while serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as we deal with the confirmation of ambassadors. It is important to be adequately prepared to deal with the many foreign visitors who come to our office and to deal with foreign policy issues.

I particularly want to thank her for her help in the so-called Magnitsky bill, a bill that passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been also supported in the Senate Finance Committee. She has been a critical part of our team in developing the necessary support so that bill could move forward.

I want to thank her for her help on the Cardin-Lugar provisions that provide transparency among mineral companies so we can trace the resources of developing countries, allowing those resources to benefit the strength of a country's economy rather than become a curse.

And I want to thank Katharine Beamer for her help on a lot of human rights issues she has been involved with, including the issue of Alan Gross.

Senator Durbin has spoken on the floor and has brought to our attention the human rights violations of a Marylander who is today in a prison in Cuba. Alan Gross was providing help to a small Jewish community in Cuba. He wasn't doing it in any secret manner. He was trying to provide them a better opportunity to communicate with the Internet. He was very open about what he was doing in Cuba and was doing it in order to advance the ability of a community to keep in touch around the world.

As a result of that activity, Alan Gross, a Marylander, was arrested and imprisoned, tried and convicted, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His appeal to the Cuban Supreme Court was denied in August of 2011. For the past 2 1/2 years, since December 3, 2009, Alan Gross has been imprisoned in Cuba--over 2 1/2 years.

Throughout my legislative career, I have worked hard to improve the relationship between Cuba and the United States, particularly among the people of Cuba and the people of the United States. I have worked on ways to ease certain restrictions so we can improve the climate between our two countries. But what the Cuban Government is doing today in continuing to imprison Alan Gross is absolutely outrageous. It violates international human rights standards and it is against any sense of humanity.

I am going to continue to speak out about it and urge the Cuban authorities to do what is right. This has gained international attention and there have been efforts made by other dignitaries from other countries to try to get Alan Gross's case heard in a proper manner. I particularly want to acknowledge Senator Durbin's extraordinary leadership on this issue. Senator Durbin took the time, when he was in Cuba, to meet with Alan Gross. I have been with Senator Durbin when we have met with Alan Gross's family. I have been with Senator Durbin when we have tried to engage other international diplomats to implore the Cuban authorities on a humanitarian basis to release Alan Gross.

There was no reason for his arrest. There was no reason for his conviction. There is no reason for his being in prison today. But one doesn't have to get too much involved in that issue to suggest that the Cuban authorities should release Alan Gross on a humanitarian basis. I say that because his health is in question. Alan's health has steadily deteriorated during his imprisonment. He has lost over 100 pounds, suffers from a multitude of medical conditions, including gout, ulcers, and arthritis, that have worsened without adequate treatment.

Of equal concern as his own health are the conditions of his beloved mother and daughter, both of whom are suffering from cancer. The Gross family should not have to suffer through another day of this desperate situation without Alan at home for support.

So for all those reasons, we speak out today to once again urge the Cuban authorities to do the right thing as far as human rights and their legal system and release Alan Gross. They should do the right thing from a humanitarian point of view and let Alan Gross come home to his beloved family so he can be supportive of them during this difficult time in their lives. We urge them to do the right thing so we can have a better relationship between the people of Cuba and the people of the United States. They should release Alan Gross because it is the right thing to do.

We are going to continue to speak out about this. I know many of us have looked for different ways in which to help the Gross family and we will continue to do that. But the simple, right thing for the Cuban authorities is to release Alan Gross today, and we urge them to do that.

With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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