During his remarks to the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s 82nd Walk to Washington Congressional Dinner, Congressman Chris Smith acknowledged five hotel chains for their leadership in fighting human trafficking; Hilton, Carlson, Radisson, Wyndham and Marriott.
Smith introduced legislation yesterday, H.R.1427, which will require that hotels that fight human trafficking be preferred vendors for federal government travel.
Smith remarks to the Chamber, as prepared for delivery, follow:
Excerpts of remarks by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
@ NJ Chamber of Commerce 82nd Walk to Washington &
Congressional Dinner—Marriott Wardman Park Hotel Feb. 28, 2019
Thank you, Tom Bracken and Bob Doherty—and the entire NJ Chamber team for so effectively promoting economic expansion and jobs and affordability throughout the state.
There is always—as the Wall Streeters like to say—a wall of worry to climb, even when significant economic gains are being achieved.
Yet, the job numbers are impressive. Over the last two years alone, 4.8 million new jobs have been created.
Unemployment in New Jersey is just above 4%.
There are more people in America working now than ever—156.7 million—and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of women and minorities in the workforce as of this week is at an all-time high.
Year-to-date, the S&P index is up over 11%.
As lawmakers, we have you, above all, to thank for this progress.
Government can help create conditions conducive to a healthy economy that leaves no one behind, but it is you—the women and men in this room—who actually create and sustain opportunities for work.
Absent your vision, sweat, tenacity, prudent risk taking and business plan execution—our economy implodes and along with-it salaries and the food, clothing and shelter it buys—and benefits like employer sponsored health insurance that provides over 176 million people with health care. Thank you.
With record spending of $675 billion, we are rebuilding our military for the second year in a row. As you know, the Air Force is deploying 24 new C-46 tanker aircraft to the Joint Base by 2022 with a military construction budget of $146 million in upgrades.
With record spending for veterans of $197 billionwe are ensuring world class health care, GI college funding, job training and care for homeless vets.
In his state of the Union address, President Trump said that rebuilding our infrastructure wasn’t an option—but a necessity. As the Chamber points out: “Our highways, airports, and other infrastructure have served us well for decades, allowing commerce to function and our economy to grow. Unfortunately, we have done a poor job maintaining it”.
The economic costs associated with the failure to act are clear. By 2025, the American Society of Civil Engineers projects our failing infrastructure will mean $7 trillion in lost sales for businesses and 2.5 million lost jobs.”
Our crumbling infrastructure also includes dangerous levels of lead in the water throughout the state—like the Trenton Waterworks challenge—exacerbated by thousands of miles of aging below ground pipes that need immediate replacement or remediation.
Of great importance—the Gateway Project. While there is no line item for Gateway, $8 billion over two years was appropriated for rail infrastructure projects for which Gateway may apply. Gateway is critical and will improve safety, reliability, resiliency and capacity for the most utilized rail line in the nation.
It’s time for some serious bipartisanship on infrastructure.
On the foreign policy front, Secretary Pompeo said that while no deal was reached between President Trump and Kim Jung Un, “progress was made” but Kim was “unprepared to do more”. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the ongoing dialogue to prevent another devastating war on the Korean peninsula and achieve denuclearization continues to be of absolute importance.
And given North Korea’s deplorable human rights record, this new opening must be seized as an opportunity to end pervasive torture, religious persecution and executions.
Tonight, I respectfully ask that, especially those of you with business interests in China, to raise with your colleagues President Xi Jinping’s new war on religion.
Over the years I’ve chaired over 60 congressional hearings on Chinese human rights abuse—including religious persecution and Beijing’s theft of American intellectual property rights.
I recently wrote an op-ed published in the Washington Post pointing out that the Chinese Communist Party has undertaken the most comprehensive attempt to manipulate and control religion—or destroy it—since Chairman Mao Zedong made the eradication of religion a goal of his disastrous Cultural Revolution half a century ago.
Now President Xi is trying to radically transform religion into the party’s servant, employing a draconian policy known as sinicization.
Under sinicization, all religions and believers must comport with and aggressively promote communist ideology — or else.
To drive home the point, religious believers of every persuasion are harassed, arrested, jailed, tortured—even killed. Over a million Uighur Muslims are today in concentrations camps.
Bibles are burned, churches destroyed, crosses set ablaze atop church steeples and now, under President Xi, religious leaders are required to install facial-recognition cameras in their places of worship that are monitored by the secret police—high tech items they may be buying from you.
My appeal—especially if you do business in China—is to please speak out against this existential threat to religious believers.
The world has nothing to fear from a free and democratic China. But given its current hegemony in the region, massive military buildup, soft power initiatives like the ubiquitous Confucius Institutes, and less than benign global aspirations, we have much to be deeply concerned about.
Finally, on human trafficking, President Trump signed my fifth anti-human trafficking bill into law on January 8th—the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act.
The new law honors the legacy of one of the greatest Americans who ever lived—Frederick Douglass. Born a slave two hundred years ago, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery at the age of 20 and became an extraordinary leader in the fight to abolish it.
Frederick Douglass’ great-great- great grandson Kenneth Morris said upon enactment of the law: “if my great ancestor were here today, I believe he would be driven to lead the struggle against contemporary forms of slavery.”
May we all be driven to engage this struggle.
The Frederick Douglass Act provides:
- Over $430 million for numerous anti-human trafficking programs and initiatives including educating students how to avoid being trafficked;
- Shelter, interventions, and reintegration for trafficking victims;
- Of particular interest to the Chamber, facilitation of trafficking-free supply chains in U.S. commerce;
- Training of U.S. government procurement officials on how to avoid buying goods and services associated with sex or labor trafficking.
- Since so many trafficking victims are being transported like commodities in plain sight on commercial airline flights, the Frederick Douglass Act requires airlines to train their workforce—as Delta currently does and some others. I’ve chaired several congressional hearings on this best practice—it works and rescues victims. To further incentivize such training, preference in booking a flight for federal employees on official business will now be given to those airlines that have a training protocol in place.
When the Frederick Douglass Act was passed by the House, it included a similar training and booking preference for hotels but that was blocked by Senate.
Today, I reintroduced that provision in a new bipartisan bill—H.R. 1427—so others might follow the lead of hotels like Hilton, Carlson, Radisson and Wyndham. Marriot International for example, has committed to training its entire 750,000 workforce to be situationally aware of and to take appropriate action to thwart human trafficking at any of its 6,900 properties. Since 2017 Marriott has already trained a half a million hotel workers.
You, the business leaders in this room can make—and many are already making—the decisive difference in ending modern day slavery.
This is everyone’s struggle.