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Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update

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Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update

Government Accountability Office Heeds My Demand for Investigation of Border Air Pollution

In response to my recent request, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), formerly known as the General Accounting Office, has announced an investigation into air pollution in the United States generated by power plants across the border in Mexico.

A comprehensive investigation will strengthen our campaign against dirty air in our community. The report should not only enhance our battle plan against pollution from across the border, but also serve as a catalyst for action by shining a spotlight on the problem. We need to tackle pollution generated at home, but we will never have clean air if we don't stop the emissions from across the border!

In a letter that fellow California Congresswoman Hilda Solis and I sent to the GAO, we noted the severe impact air pollution from Mexico has on the health of Imperial County residents. We requested information and analysis of the current situation as well as recommendations for ending the air quality crisis.

I look forward to reading the report and pushing for implementation of the recommendations as soon as it is complete. The GAO will initiate the study in the beginning of November.

Visit my Border Issues page
Visit my Environment Issues page
Visit my Health Issues page

Leading the Fight for Border Efficiency
I am convinced that longer lines at the border for legal travelers will hurt our economy and fail to make us safer! That is why I was pleased to spearhead an effort to warn Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that the implementation of the US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology) program at land borders may threaten legal travel and trade.

US-VISIT, which photographs and verifies "biometric identifiers," such as fingerprints, of visitors to the United States, will be implemented at 50 sites along U.S. land borders before the end of the year. It could threaten businesses that rely on shoppers, employees and deliveries that regularly cross into the United States from Mexico.

Six additional Members of Congress signed a letter I sent to Secretary Ridge urging him to explain the security benefits of implementing US-VISIT at land borders and how the Department of Homeland Security will maintain border efficiency.

I will continue fighting for a smarter approach to screening legal visitors-an approach that allows border agents to focus their resources on higher risk travelers and creates a secure and efficient border!

Visit my Border Issues page
Visit my Homeland Security Issues page

National Hispanic Organization Endorses My VISA Act
I'm proud to announce that the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)--the largest national constituency-based Hispanic organization and the leading voice in Washington, DC for the Hispanic community-recently endorsed my VISA Act.

The Visitors Interested in Strengthening America (VISA) Act, H.R. 2525 , would restore Port Directors' authority to issue one-day humanitarian visa waivers to Mexican children visiting the United States for medical, cultural and educational purposes.

NCLR President Raul Yzaguirre sent me a letter stating, "H.R. 2525 would boost local economies, promote binational cultural exchanges, and allow sick children to seek quality medical attention they may not be able to receive in Mexico."

Yzaguirre also affirmed that "H.R. 2525 will not make it any easier for terrorists or other criminal elements to enter the U.S., and it does not force any immigration official to grant a humanitarian waiver."

NCLR joins Universal Studios, the Border Trade Alliance, the San Diego Zoo and others in expressing its strong support for the VISA Act.

I will continue working with NCLR to pass this bill and ensure a secure and efficient border!

Visit my Border Issues page

Combating Cancer and Chronic Diseases in Communities of Color
It is time to close the health care gap in this country!

I recently announced my support for legislation aimed at providing cancer information, education, screening, counseling and treatment programs for communities of color. The bill, known as the Cancer Testing, Education, Screening, and Treatment Act (H.R. 1868 ), would make grants available to local health centers that are providing these important services.

The health centers are required to offer the services in the "languages and cultural contexts most appropriate" for the members of the local community. Eligible health centers would include community health centers, migrant health centers, health centers for the homeless, and health centers for residents of public housing.

It is my hope that the Republicans who control Congress will bring this bill up for a vote soon, so we can get to work fighting cancer in communities of color!

In addition, I'm supporting the Patient Navigator, Outreach, and Chronic Disease Prevention Act (H.R. 918 ). The bill provides grants for health care services for regions or minority groups that suffer higher levels of chronic diseases, such as cancer.

I will continue fighting to not only pass this bill, but to ensure that it assists Imperial County residents suffering a sky-high rate of asthma.

The bill directs the Health Resources and Services Administration, National Cancer Institute and the Indian Health Service to fund prevention, early detection, treatment and appropriate follow-up care services. Health centers and organizations that offer culturally-sensitive services and outreach would be eligible.

We should end health disparities throughout our country-starting right here in our community!

Visit my Health Issues page

Urging the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to Create a Tagalog Credential Test
I recently announced my support for the creation of a state Credentialing Test in Tagalog, the language spoken by many Filipinos. Currently, there are nine language-credentialing tests in California, but Tagalog is not one of them. In fact, of the nine language tests, seven of them are for languages less commonly spoken in California. The Tagalog Credentialing Test, if created, would serve many of the 626,399 Tagalog-speaking residents of California.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires teachers to be credentialed in the subjects they teach. Because California does not offer a Tagalog Credential, the teachers of Tagalog can't be credentialed!

Currently, there are 18 schools that offer classes in Tagalog. These classes must not be discontinued! In addition, I am sure that number, along with class enrollments, would increase if teachers had the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise. It is only reasonable that Tagalog Language teachers be offered the same credentialing opportunities as other foreign language teachers.

Visit my Education Issues page

Angels in Adoption
I recently selected Antonio and Martha Gomez of El Centro, California as nominees for the Angels in Adoption Award, sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. This honor recognizes those who are making a difference in the lives of children through adoption, foster care or child welfare advocacy.

Mr. and Mrs. Gomez have provided a safe and loving home to many foster children, their adopted child, and their two biological children. In addition, Martha is the current President of the Imperial Valley Foster Parents Association, and Antonio previously held this important position.

The two will be traveling to Washington, DC in September for the Angels in Adoption Awards Celebration with Actress, Jane Seymour; PGA golfer, Kirk Triplett; and General Manager of the Orlando Magic, Pat Williams.

Beside honoring the Angels, the Angels in Adoption Award raises awareness about children in need of safe and loving homes.

Visit the Angels in Adoption site

Constituent Mailbag

From San Ysidro:
The Department of Labor's overhaul of the Fair Labor Standards Act would eliminate overtime pay for millions of workers. This is unfair and mean-spirited. The Republicans that control Congress should schedule a vote to stop the elimination of overtime for these workers-and you should vote for it.

Congressman Filner:
I wholeheartedly agree-the President's efforts would give employers the power to stop paying their employees overtime, in return for comp time, while leaving up to the employers how much comp time will be offered, and how and when it can be used.

It is estimated that of those Americans who earn overtime pay, close to ¼ of their take home pay is made up of overtime pay. These changes attack working people, endanger the 40-hour workweek, and offer no firm benefit to the employee. I am outraged by the House Leadership's failure to protect working families!

Contact my office

Hot Bill: Social Security Fairness for Merchant Mariners Act of 2004
I recently introduced a bill, H.R. 4904 , the Social Security Fairness for Merchant Mariners Act of 2004. There were three major roles in World War II: the fighting forces overseas, the production army at home, and the link between them-the United States Merchant Marine. The maritime power of the Merchant Marine may have been the difference between victory and defeat. The World War II Merchant Mariners suffered the highest casualty rate of any of the branches of service while they delivered troops, tanks, food, airplanes, fuel and other needed supplies to every theater of the war. Enemy forces sank over 800 ships between 1941 and 1944 alone.

Given the role of the Merchant Mariners in World War II, it is unbelievable that they were not given their proper recognition as "veterans." I would hope that this was an oversight, not a deliberate attempt to exclude them from benefits. One of the results of this lack of the "veteran" designation is that the law does not recognize Merchant Mariners as veterans for Social Security purposes. If they had the veteran designation, their Social Security would have been calculated as if they had earned $160 more a month than they did earn during their time in service in the Merchant Marines. Of course,lack of this designation means a smaller Social Security check, now that they are retired.

My bill will fix this unfair situation! It will provide benefits with the status of "veteran" under the Social Security Act to the Merchant Mariners who served during World War II. Combined with my bill, the "Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II" (H.R. 3729 ), which would compensate them for their exclusion from GI Bill benefits, Congress can fix the injustice that has been endured by the Merchant Mariners.

Cool Web site: FirstGov for Kids
FirstGov for Kids is a gateway to other information resources, divided into subjects that kids might have in school. It provides links to Federal kids' sites along with some of the best kids' sites from other organizations all grouped by subject. Explore, learn, and have fun!

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