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Wilson: Congress Should Focus on Jobs and the Safety of the Young and Vulnerable

Since coming to Congress, my top priority has been to find ways to save and create jobs in our community and throughout the nation. It is clear that now is the time to work with the president to find solutions that will get our local governments back on track, fostering a sustained economic recovery.

I introduced the Jobs Now Act, which establishes grants for local governments and community-based organizations for the hiring, retention and training of employees in places with high unemployment, foreclosure and poverty rates.

I supported President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act, which would create and maintain hundreds of thousands of jobs in Florida. Included in the American Jobs Act is the establishment of a long-overdue National Infrastructure Bank to modernize our roads, bridges, railways, airports and water and sewer systems — creating millions of good-paying construction jobs. Among these public-private investments that we need to jump-start a dynamic 21st-century economy is the dredging of the Port of Miami, which alone could create up to 30,000 high-quality jobs.

In August, I organized a jobs fair in Miami that was attended by more than 9,000 people and 150 employers. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, MSNBC’s Tamron Hall and several of my colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus joined me for the jobs fair and spoke at my town hall meeting on jobs and the CBC’s jobs initiative legislation, which calls for Congress to pass legislation to address the economic crisis in communities of color and nationwide.

Within the first few months of my time in office, I held a tele-town hall meeting with the Haiti special coordinator to the State Department, Thomas Adams, to give my constituents an update on the progress of international aid to Haiti. Knowing that there was still much work to be done, I traveled to Haiti to see the damage firsthand and look for ways to help. I also met with President Michel Martelly and took a helicopter ride to survey the earthquake damage. I persuaded the Obama administration to extend and redesignate temporary protected status for Haitian nationals. This important lifeline for tens of thousands of Haitians living in South Florida allows them to temporarily remain in this country with their families as the post-earthquake reconstruction progresses. I introduced the Cease Haiti Deportations Act to halt the removal of Haitian nationals until a report is made to Congress on the status of post-earthquake humanitarian, reconstruction and development efforts in the country. I also introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. to work with the Haitian government to work to end violence and rape against displaced women in Haiti.

I am a former school principal and Miami-Dade County School Board member, and my primary focus has always been the safety of our children. During my time in Congress, I have joined the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus and the Foster Children’s Caucus, and I have introduced the Rilya Wilson Act, named after a child from Miami who went missing from foster care a decade ago. It took 15 months for anyone to report her missing. My legislation seeks to ensure that every state has a plan in place to require prompt reporting of missing foster children to law enforcement.

Unfortunately, bullying and hazing still require action at the federal level, especially to combat hazing incidents such as the tragedies that claimed the lives of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion in November 2011 and University of Miami student Chad Meredith in November 2001. Because of that, I plan to introduce a federal anti-hazing bill. Hazing is demeaning, dangerous and, in some cases, deadly. It’s time that we put an end to this horrible and humiliating ritual once and for all. I will use my experience fighting hazing during my four-year term as the South Atlantic Regional Director for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the first sorority founded by black students on the campus of Howard University in 1908. I am currently having policy discussions with stakeholders so we will be able to draft a strong bill for introduction this month.

Last year, at my request, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division agreed to investigate the Miami Police Department following the shooting deaths of several black men by police in 2010 and 2011.

Rep. Frederica Wilson is a member of the Foreign Affairs and Science, Space and Technology committees.

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