WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a Committee markup.
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this markup and – as always– for working with us in a bipartisan manner. I strongly support the seven measures that make up this en bloc package.
“I’d like to begin by urging my colleagues to support H.R. 1493, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act. I introduced this bill with Representatives Chris Smith and Bill Keating, and Chairman Royce as well—and this is a measure that is deeply important to me.
“We’ve all seen horrific videos of ISIS ransacking historical sites in the territory they control. This is much, much more than the senseless destruction of irreplaceable treasures in Syria, alone. It’s happened all over the world. But today, ISIS is trying to erase history. They’re trying to wipe out the heritage and the culture of the people they oppress.
“Worse still, they’re peddling these antiquities on the black market to fund their violence.
“Since World War II, the United States has led the world in protecting cultural property from those bent on its theft and destruction. We’ve never stood for this sort of barbarity, and we cannot do so now. We must respond to the ongoing crisis in Syria and coordinate our efforts to protect cultural property before the next crisis erupts somewhere else in the world.
“This bill would allow the Administration to crack down on the import of looted Syrian cultural property—restrictions that would mirror those we’ve already established for Iraq and that would bolster steps our allies have already taken. The legislation would also make sure all of our federal agencies are on the same page when it comes to safeguarding antiquities, and it would ramp up congressional oversight of what we’re doing on that issue.
“We need to act on this problem now, to cut off a critical source of funding for ISIS, to stand up to this brand of psychological warfare, and to stop those determined to destroy a part of the world’s richest history.
“Next, I’d like to thank Representative Poe for introducing H.R. 237, bipartisan legislation to authorize the Secretary of State to deny or revoke passports for anyone associated with a foreign terrorist organization. I’m deeply troubled by reports of Americans travelling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and other terrorist organizations. This situation creates the potential for attacks on US soil when they return home. It is critical we use all the tools at our disposal –including border protection and passport controls –to protect our country.
“I also support H.R. 1567, the Global Food Security Act, and I thank Representatives Smith and McCollum for taking the lead on this important issue. The bipartisan legislation passed the House last year and would authorize the Feed the Future Initiative championed by former USAID Administrator Raj Shah. In its first few years, this initiative has made a real difference in fighting world hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. This bill would strengthen this valuable program, and I urge my colleagues to support it.
“I also support H.R. 907, the US-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act, legislation introduced by my friends Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Deutch. Jordan faces enormous security and economic challenges. More than 600,000 Syrian refugees have spilled into the country, and ISIS is sitting on its doorstep. This bill would speed up the transfer of American defense equipment for the next three years. It would also authorize the Secretary of State to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Jordan to increase economic and military assistance. We want to send a message to the Jordanian people: we are with them in their fight against extremism.
“I also support H.R. 500, the Survivors of Human Trafficking Empowerment Act, which was introduced by Representative Mike Honda. This legislation would create a council made up of trafficking survivors to provide guidance and recommendations to federal agencies working on human trafficking issues. Having the voices of survivors to help guide federal policy, identify funding priorities, and offer technical assistance will improve our government’s response to this horrific crime of modern-day slavery.
“Next, I want to thank Representative Rangel for his leadership in introducing H.Con.Res. 40, a resolution that encourages the reunion of divided Korean-American families. Charlie Rangel, of course, was an American soldier in the Korean War. More than 10 million Koreans have been separated from family members since 1953, many of whom are now American citizens. This legislation calls on North Korea to allow Korean-Americans to meet their family members from North Korea and to take steps to build goodwill that is conducive to peace on the Peninsula. I am a co-sponsor of this legislation and I urge my colleagues to support it.
“And finally, I would like to voice my support for H. Res. 50, a resolution calling on Russia to immediately release Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko and condemning her illegal captivity. Nadiya was captured by Russian-led insurgents in Ukraine last summer and has been held in a Moscow prison. She is a true heroine of Ukraine. Her courage and spirit inspire so many in her country who are struggling against great odds for an independent, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine; an independent, democratic, and prosperous future. I commend Representative Sandy Levin and the other members of the House Ukraine Caucus for introducing this measure and I urge my colleagues to support us. I also ask unanimous consent to enter Congressman Honda’s statement for the record, for H.R. 500.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, again, for holding this markup, and for working with us on these measures in a bipartisan manner.”
Watch Rep. Engel's opening statement here