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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus' Hour of Power

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman from New York. It was thought provoking to hear the gentleman from Nevada offer his thoughts of bipartisanship and to listen to the astute gentleman from Virginia on the many issues that have been left along the highway of despair, and also to be joined by Congresswoman Clarke from New York, whom we will hear from shortly.

Let me thank you for the leadership you have given to this special time, and let me try to work to be succinct on the issues that have been left along the highway of despair.

You started out with immigration reform, and you were kind enough to note that I have served on the Judiciary Committee for a number of years, formerly the ranking member on the Immigration Subcommittee, and now the ranking member on the Border Security and Maritime Subcommittee.

I will tell you that there are many times when we could have come together and passed comprehensive immigration reform, but I am going to tout as a bipartisan legitimate expression of border security, to share with my colleagues H.R. 1417, which many know was passed out of the Homeland Security House committee through the efforts of Republicans joined by Democrats, and the legislation passed with no weaknesses, no loopholes, no disrespect for the importance of the security of the northern and southern border. There were very strong responses as it relates to operational control, as it relates to the amount of control that we would have at the border, but matching it with the recognition that there must be an infrastructure of immigration reform. But let me throw all those words away and say there must be humanity. There must be concern for human beings, for families torn apart, for DREAM children destined to be valedictorians or salutatorians or to be generals in the United States military. We are losing the talent of those who have trained here with knowledge about the next level of technology because of the no H-1B because we do not have a comprehensive approach. Those folks are leaving, and, therefore, we are losing the geniuses that we trained to be able to help us.

So I want to join the gentleman and say to him that, if there is any cause on which we can come together, it would be comprehensive immigration reform. Might I just take note of my button that honors the Fast for Families, those that have been fasting for almost 20 days, almost a month, because they are trying to pull at the heartstrings of America and the heartstrings of this Congress to recognize that they are Americans, too. They are just a few blocks down the street. A few blocks down the street, families, children are fasting, asking, Is there someone who can hear our plea?

So I thank the gentleman for bringing it up, and I just want to make some other points that we have been lingering on and have not followed through on.

I introduced H.R. 2585, which is an antibullying bill, Prevention of Bullying and Intervention, and reflects where America is when you can find most every child that is interviewed has indicated that they have been bullied; or something happens to a child in high school, and they will talk about having been bullied some years back; or a child will be shot or violence will occur, and they will talk about bullying, even to the extent it is raised up in the NFL. And I want to pay tribute to a young man at the Baltimore Ravens, Mr. Rice, who has taken this cause up from the NFL.

H.R. 2585 would reauthorize the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant, and it would provide sort of a sentence road map that allows organizations that would be funded under the block grant to be able to focus on bullying prevention and intervention. How simple a legislative initiative is that? And I would offer to say that I heard from leadership on both sides of the aisle. So why not pass something as simple as that even before Christmas to be able to move forward on something that would not, in fact, be a negative?

I just quickly want to indicate that we have young people exposed to violence in ways that we have not known. Thirty percent of U.S. students in grades 6 through 10 are involved in moderate or frequent bullying. There are cases in Florida where young people have been arrested because, tragically, someone committed suicide, or the hearing I held in Houston where parents upon parents and students came in to testify how they had been bullied. One out of four kids is bullied.

Some would say they are calling everything bullying. Well, I believe if we do the outreach, we can find a way to develop an infrastructure so that there will be people who find the comfort of knowing someone cares, a system that intervenes when someone feels something is untoward, and to break the shackles of bullying by getting rid of the atmosphere that is tolerated because it is done in silence and fear.

I also introduced gun safety legislation, and I would hope that some day we could have universal background checks. As I was driving to the airport, I read an ad in the Houston Chronicle that had gun safes on sale. I said that guy, I want to give him an award, because my simple legislation requires individuals to store their guns. They can have all the guns they want, but have them stored and safe, particularly if you have a large number of them, to be able to secure and protect children and those who want to do us harm.

One of the things that the CBC worked on, and I am proud that we
worked on it, but I will say that it brings me sadness, we are at a point where we have cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition program. I went to my food bank and had them explain what a devastating impact that $40 billion, $4 billion a year, will have on the people who are in need in Houston in particular.

In my city of Houston, the census report said over the last 12 months, 442,881 incomes were below the poverty level, and 18 percent of households in the State of Texas in 2009 through 2011 ranked second in the highest rate of food security. So why can we not have an ag bill that would restore the $40 billion? Why are we suggesting that those individuals are deadbeats when one-half of the persons on food stamps or SNAP are, in fact, children? That is something, Mr. Jeffries, that we could come together on and redo or the conference could redo. We could look to ensure a place of laws but a place of humanity.

In conclusion, allow me to throw in two disparate points, but I consider them justice issues. First, that is the Affordable Care Act, which is a justice initiative. It is to say that we all have access to good health care. That is not a carte blanche for good health because we must all change our attitudes and do a lot of things to make us healthy, but it certainly is an intervener that allows to us have preventive care; it allows women to not be characterized as a preexisting disease because they are pregnant; it allows children born with preexisting diseases not to be eliminated from the insurance rolls; and it allowed 13 million Americans to receive $1.1 billion in rebates from their health insurance last year when the Affordable Care Act was in place. Now 105 million Americans have free preventive services.

So all of the talk of the technology takes away from the core value that Americans should have access to health care, and today I am glad to hear that we are making strides in a technological system that is not always perfect. Let us not undermine this bill. I am very glad that the Congressional Black Caucus, under the leadership of our chairwoman, has been strong in educating our constituents about the Affordable Care Act.

In conclusion, a remaining challenge that we have: the Voting Rights Act must be reauthorized to the extent of a provision that was eliminated by the Supreme Court decision wrongly, Shelby County v. Holder, that took away the provisions of preclearance which, in fact, provided justice and the right to vote for all Americans. We are gathered, hopefully, in a bipartisan manner with the leadership of Mr. Sensenbrenner and others who are on various committees in the Congressional Black Caucus and the leadership of our Democratic Caucus and the Republican conference to come together in a bipartisan manner to be able to accept the constitutional premise best said by the Declaration of Independence: that we all are created equally with certain inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We have coddled the right to vote. We have welcomed the right to vote. I am reading a story about our Puerto Rican citizens who don't have the right to vote and how they felt like second-class citizens. There are those of us on the mainland that have had roadblocks thrown across the pathway that needed to be protected not only by the Bill of Rights but by the Voting Rights Act that has withstood the test of time, that has been reviewed. So it is important that we get a construct that all of us can support so that if there is a voter ID law, it does not block people from voting, it does not keep one particular group from getting a voter ID law because they do not have access, like in Texas with the Department of Public Safety. In essence, the Voting Rights Act is one that reaffirms America's commitment that every person has a right to vote--one person, one vote.

I want to thank the Congressional Black Caucus for being a leader on so many issues, from preventing gun violence to the issue of dealing with our children and anti-bullying and intervention, to the idea of the Affordable Care Act, to restoring SNAP funding, to the Voting Rights Act and, yes, to a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, particularly the idea that we worked on so extensively, and that is diversity visas.

When I go home and speak to people from all walks of life, particularly the African community, they understand the work the Congressional Black Caucus has done--the Haitians, those from the Caribbean, those from South Asia--in reuniting families. They understand that we have been a leader on the broad landscape of comprehensive immigration reform.

For that reason, I am hoping that we will not end this session by looking sadly back on what we have not done, but that we will roll up our sleeves. I also hope that before we leave here before the end of this particular first session of the 113th Congress, we will have the opportunity to see an ag bill that will restore a portion of the SNAP dollars, helping those who cannot help themselves; that we will actually have passed anti-bullying legislation that should draw Republicans and Democrats together; that we will have confronted the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, listened to the voices of reason, and passed legislation in regular order and then, as well, that we in conclusion find it within ourselves to eliminate the sequester in a way that provides funding back to the basic responsibilities of this government in rebuilding infrastructure, creating jobs, stopping the bleeding of losing jobs because we have kept the sequester long overdue; funding our defense; providing for education and the safety and security of our seniors and our veterans. Let's get to work.

I thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Jeffries) for reminding us that we came here to roll up our sleeves and to work for the American people.

[Begin Insert]
I introduced the above legislation H.R. 2585 to save our children's lives.

SUMMARY OF BILL

H.R. 2585 will help to stem this epidemic by reauthorizing for 5 years Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program (JABG) and providing funding to state and local governments for the creation of bullying and gang prevention programs.

Legislation authorizes such appropriations as may be necessary, which is anticipated to be at least $40 million per year ($200 million total) for the 5 year reauthorization period.

In addition to reauthorizing juvenile justice programs, legislation clarifies how to address the occurrences of bullying through developmentally appropriate intervention and prevention techniques, which center on evidence-based models and best practices that rely on schools and communities rather than involvement from law enforcement and the justice system.

Legislation designed to help both the victims and perpetrators of bullying. Research studies have shown that approximately 25 percent of school bullies will be convicted of a criminal offense in their adult years.

H.R. 2585 also includes provisions for gang prevention programs, which will help guide our children towards socially beneficial paths.

If we want our children to learn, we must be able to maintain a safe and healthy school environment.

WHY H.R. 2585 IS NECESSARY

Although some people may dismiss bullying as a normal part of growing up, bullying can be detrimental to a child's education and development.

Each day an estimated 160,000 students in this country refuse to go to school because they fear being bullied by their peers, and many more attend school in a chronic state of anxiety and depression.

In addition, six out of ten American youth witness bullying at least once a day, and nearly 30 percent--or 5.7 million children--are involved in bullying as victims, perpetrators, or both.

1 in 7 Students in Grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.

90% of 4th to 8th Grade Students report being victims of bullying of some type.

56% of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.

71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.

87% of youth said shootings are motivated by a desire to ``get back at those who have hurt them, and 86% said, ``other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them'' causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in the schools.

Consequences of bullying:

15% of all school absenteeism is directly related to fears of being bullied.

1 out of every 10 students who drops out of school does so because of repeated bullying.

Suicides linked to bullying are the saddest statistic.

Behind these statistics are real children and young people who suffer and hurt too often in silence. Let me tell you the heart breaking story of David Ray Ritcheson.

David Ray Ritcheson was a victim of adolescent bullying. He was 16 years of age--when he was bullied, beaten and tortured nearly to death.

David was assaulted while attending a party in Spring, Texas. He spent 3 months in a hospital as a result of his injuries and underwent more than 30 surgeries to repair his battered body.

His courage in the face of such violence was reflected in his willingness to come before Congress to tell his story.

My reaction to his courage and later death by suicide was to sponsor House Resolution to honor the life and sacrifice of David Ray Ritcheson. The Resolution told his story and expressed the importance of passing hate crime legislation; and his story also showed the violence of bullying.


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