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- As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks on the implementation of his bill, the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act, which because Public Law No: 114-291 at the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing:

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.  I also thank Mr. Sires.  You know, participating at the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee for me always feels like coming home.

“I was Chairman of the Subcommittee for four years from 2006 to 2010.  And Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your leadership and that of Ranking Member Sires on U.S. policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Thank you very much for holding today’s hearing on implementation of the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act, which I authored with my good friend, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen.  And the coffee is from her office, too.  It really makes this feel like Western Hemisphere.

“When President Obama signed our bill into law in December, we took an important first step in prioritizing our neighbors in the Caribbean—a region that is far too often, unfortunately, taken for granted.

“On June 19th, the State Department submitted to Congress the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in the Caribbean mandated by the law.  This ambitious strategy was welcomed by Democrats and Republicans alike.

“But, now comes the hard part: we need to work together to ensure that it is fully implemented and has the resources it needs to succeed. 

“I look forward to hearing from Ambassador Merten about the specific first steps that the State Department and USAID will take to prioritize the Caribbean in the coming years.

“An estimated three and a half million people from the Caribbean live here in the United States, which accounts for nine percent of the total foreign-born population here in the United States.  And six million people self-identify as members of the Caribbean diaspora in the United States.

“They represent an extraordinarily rich and vibrant part of the fabric of America that can do so much to make our country stronger and strengthen our ties to countries across the Caribbean.

“Ambassador Merten, I urge you to reach out to the Caribbean-American diaspora and tap into their expertise and energy as you implement the new strategy.

“Finally, as my colleagues know, I am extremely troubled by the draconian cuts to the FY2018 international affairs budget proposed by President Trump and Secretary Tillerson—including the devastating 37 percent cut for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to a level of $36.2 million.

“Representatives Ros-Lehtinen, Clarke, Love and I led a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee rejecting this proposed cut, and today, it was announced that CBSI will be funded in the FY18 House bill at the FY17 level of $57.7 million.  That is a tremendous victory.

“So Ambassador Merten, I look forward to your testimony today, and I again thank you again Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing.”

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