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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Human Rights Legislation Will Assist North Korean Child Refugees
Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and cosponsor of the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act, praised House passage of this human rights legislation, which will facilitate adoption of North Korean children refugees by United States citizens.
Thousands of North Korean children without families to care for them and threatened by starvation and disease have fled North Korea and now live as refugees in China, Mongolia, Thailand, and throughout Southeast Asia. They remain susceptible to human trafficking and at risk of being sent back to North Korea.
This bill instructs the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to develop a strategy to facilitate adoption by United States citizens of North Korean children living as refugees.
On the House floor, Berman remarked while managing debate on this bill: “As innocent men, women, and children flee the repressive North Korean regime at great personal risk, we have a moral obligation to assist them. This bill, H.R. 1464, is not merely about adoption, but also an issue of human rights for the North Korean people.”
Full text of Berman’s remarks on the House floor can be found below:
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. R. 1464, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
I’d like to thank the sponsor of this legislation, the gentleman from California, Mr. Royce and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for their leadership on this issue and for their work in supporting the plight of North Korean refugees.
Despite North Korea’s efforts to appear “strong and prosperous” this year to celebrate the 100th birthday of the country’s founder, vast numbers of its people live in dire conditions. Sadly, the North Korean regime’s misguided priorities—pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its so-called space program, its nuclear programs and its massive military—only underscore its cold-hearted callousness and blatant disregard for its own citizens.
Thousands of North Korean children do not have families to care for them and are threatened with starvation and disease if they remain in North Korea or as refugees in neighboring countries, especially China.
Many of the children that have fled the North are in hiding and live in mortal fear of being caught and sent back to North Korea, where they would face severe punishment and even death. Equally terrifying is the prospect of being sold into bondage by human traffickers in China.
As a beacon of hope for the rest of the world, the United States must do all it can to help these vulnerable and destitute children. That’s why I’m proud to be a cosponsor of H. R. 1464, the North Korea Refugee Adoption Act.
This bill calls on the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to formulate and report to Congress on a strategy for facilitating the adoption of North Korean children by U.S. citizens.
Passage of this bill would be the first step in helping the thousands of North Korean child refugees living alone in foreign lands. And, it would provide a glimmer of hope to the American families who would welcome the opportunity to adopt North Korean orphans.
The impending passage of this bill speaks to the broad, bipartisan consensus in Congress regarding the atrocious human rights situation in North Korea.
As innocent men, women, and children flee the repressive North Korean regime at great personal risk, we have a moral obligation to assist them. H.R. 1464 is not merely about adoption, but also an issue of human rights for the North Korean people.
We must continue working to ensure that the North Korean people are not forgotten and that orphaned North Korean children will get the care and support that they need. I urge my colleagues to support this bill and I reserve the balance of my time.