Our Constitutional Rightsby Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
Posted on 2015-12-08
JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, in a conversation that I had recently,
speaking about the other body, it was mentioned that that body is the
deliberative body. There are opportunities for collaboration between
Members, Democrat and Republican. But I am in the people's House, and I
believe that Members also have the duty and commitment to collaborate
and to be deliberative and thoughtful.
This morning, I would like to offer just a number of points about our wonderful Constitution.
I first want to begin by saying this is Restore the Vote Tuesday, and I am wearing a pin that highlights the importance of voting and the responsibilities of our civic constituency. My colleague from Alabama (Ms. Sewell) is on the floor, and I join her in recognizing how special this right is and to know that many of us--I attempted to register sharecroppers in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia in my college days, people who were still frightened about voting. I saw what the 1965 Voting Rights Act did, and we need to restore it.
We have an election coming up in Houston on Saturday, and I want to say to my constituents that we will do all that we can to prevent any prohibitive barriers from voting, from your voting.
That is a right, Mr. Speaker, just as it is the right to have the right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.
Mr. Speaker, one of our Presidential candidates took to the airwaves in the last 24 hours to pronounce or announce or demagogue, saying that no Muslims should be allowed in this country. Mr. Speaker, I believe that we, as Members of Congress, should be empathetic and sympathetic to the concern of the American people. Maybe some are frightened. I do not make light of that.
I have been on the Homeland Security Committee since 9/11, and I now serve as the ranking member of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee. I take these obligations very seriously. For any of us who have been to Ground Zero even at that time and since that time, it is seared in our minds.
I know the people in San Bernardino, those of us reflecting on Paris, but now our own brothers and sisters realize that government must act in a way for Americans to feel safe and secure. But I would say that having met and stood with the Muslim community in my district on Sunday, late in the afternoon, [[Page H9030]] we stood in front of the Mickey Leland Federal building with Christians alike. Arm in arm we prayed. But I just stood back and listened to one Muslim representative after another come and proclaim their patriotism and denouncing the violence and distortion of their faith.
A young imam who had just moved from New Jersey just moved me. He began to articulate the elements of the Koran: benevolence and love. As a 25-year-old, he stood up to denounce this violence. That is the kind of American partnership that we need.
When we concluded that meeting, we had a press conference and vigil. We said that we would form a task force. I encourage Members throughout this body to have task forces on this very issue: How can we help? Then as the President spoke--I want to thank him, for maybe people were not listening--the President was very clear that he is going to take the hunt and hunt down terrorist plotters to any country where they are. The President also indicated he will continue to provide training and equipment to Iraqi and Syrian forces and work with friends and allies to stop ISIL's operations; and with American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process and timeline to pursue cease-fires and a political resolution to the Syrian war. Our President is focused. The Congress needs to be focused.
Yes, we need to be able to put forward legislative ideas, not contentious. No terrorist should have the ability to get a gun. Therefore, we should pass this bill that indicates that any terrorist on the terrorist watch list should not be able to buy a gun in the United States of America. I have legislation in the Judiciary Committee that we are preparing to come to the floor: no-fly for foreign terrorists, stopping them in their tracks, from wherever they come from, from getting on any plane coming to the United States of America. That is not hostility. That is saying to the American people we care. As they say in the community: We have got your back.
Then we must go back to the alert system, Mr. Speaker. We did it after 9/11. We understand the Secretary is offering that thought, the red alert. It is interesting that I thought about that, to give the American people some sense.
But let me finish, Mr. Speaker, by simply saying that I love this country. What a wonderful set of principles in the Constitution. And I want to say to the American people that, with our God, with our faith vested in a higher power, and the knowledge of democracy, we are going to withstand, survive, fight, and have a better nation. I know that that is the better way, not demagoguery and condemnation of a faith. I would never do that.