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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • First Responders Passport Act of 2015

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2015-12-16

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    JACKSON LEE of texas in the house of representatives Wednesday, December 16, 2015 Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, as the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 3750, the ``First Responders Passport Act of 2015.'' I thank Representative Darrell Issa and the House Foreign Affairs Committee Leadership, Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for shepherding this legislation along.

    This bill amends the Passport Act of June 4, 1920 to waive passport fees for an individual who has contracted with the U.S. government, including a volunteer, to aid a foreign country suffering from a qualifying natural disaster.

    As the African proverb goes, ``in moments of crisis, the wise build bridges--'' this is what our first responders do: they build bridges for those caught in natural disasters.

    In today's world fraught with natural disasters from Storm Desert that our friends in the U.K. are facing to cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes across the globe, more than ever, it is very important that we build bridges by equipping our first responders dedicated to aiding countries across the globe suffering from natural disasters.

    According to scientists, the first half of this decade featured deadly climate-related disasters, among them the great floods in Thailand in 2011, Hurricane Sandy in the United States in 2012, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.

    Moreover, the year 2014 was the earth's warmest in 134 years of recorded history, and 2015 could well turn out to be even hotter.

    According to some scientists, it is difficult to not draw a nexus between climate change and some of the natural disasters we have suffered on planet earth in this decade alone.

    In the end, climate related and natural disasters have cost the world a lot in lives as well as economically.

    In fact, according to the World Meteorological Organization, 1,300 climate-related natural disasters have been recorded in Africa between 1970 to 2012.

    In this time frame, these natural disasters in Africa have caused the loss of 700,000 lives and caused economic damage worth U.S. $26 billion.

    Experts inform us that in 2012 there were 99 natural disasters in Africa--twice the long-term average.

    The passage of H.R. 3750 is very timely, especially in light of recent talks in Le Bourget, France at the Conference of Parties (COP 21), with the objective of achieving a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

    [[Page E1817]] In other words, the conveners at COP 21 seek to protect our precious earth, address the nexus between our protection of precious earth to some of the natural disasters we are suffering and reach a consensus on how we leave our children their inheritance of the earth better than we found it.

    Every day, hundreds of thousands of first responders heed the call during natural disasters to protect and serve the people of planet earth who find themselves at the mercy of mother-nature during natural disasters.

    I hold in high regard the service of our first responders: firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency response technicians, nurses, emergency room doctors, and the dozens of other professionals and volunteers who are the ultimate public servants.

    From Katrina to earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, time and time again, first responders have put their lives and comfort on the line in order to rescue survivors, care for those in need, and prevent the further loss of life.

    H.R. 3750 is very critical because it aims to reduce personal costs borne by first responders--people who help others in their time of need.

    According to the Global Increase in Climate-Related Disasters, we face more frequent floods, storms, heat waves, and droughts which are connected to greater extremes in temperatures and rainfall.

    Moreover, recent warnings by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, inform us that the global temperature is already halfway to the ``two degree warming'' threshold for limiting catastrophic climatic impacts.

    As the evidence shows, unequivocally, the dedication of first responders is an integral part of bringing relief to parts of the world where natural disasters have struck.

    I support this legislation and hope that as we move forward, we continue to engage in dialogue about the fact that: Climate impacts are not just concerns for the distant future, but are already being felt by us and our children; All countries, rich and poor are casualities of natural disaster, but the death toll is higher among the poor who are more likely to live in harm's way, such as in flood-prone areas; and It is important to create structures that facilitate the swift deployment of first responders to people in dire need of disaster relief.


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