MRAZEK'S LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS IN CONGRESS
- In 1986, the Reagan Administration sought Congressional approval for a one hundred million dollar military assistance package fpr the Contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua. The Contra base camps were located along the border between Honduras and Nicaragua, and firefights between the Contras and the Sandanistas erupted regularly there. After visiting the camps, Mrazek became concerned that a Gulf of Tonkin type of incident could be exploited by the Reagan Administration to widen the course of the war. He offered an amendment to the package that effectively banned all U.S. personnel involved in training the Contras from coming within 20 miles of the Nicaraguan border, arguing that if American troops were killed in the camps, the Reagan Administration might send American forces into Nicaragua itself. His amendment was approved by a margin of three votes in the House, and became law. The eventual declassification of secret White House internal memoranda revealed that Mrazek’s concerns were totally justified.
- In 1987, Mrazek authored the Amerasian Homecoming Act, which allowed approximately 25,000 children fathered by American servicemen during the Vietnam War to settle in the United States. After the American withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, these children became known as "bui doi" ("children of the dust") by the Vietnamese because their faces and skin color were painful reminders of the war. Discriminated in their homeland, they were often even prevented from going to school; by the mid-1980s, thousands were literally living in the streets. The USA at first refused to take responsibility for them, but in 1987, Mrazek, representing a group of students at Huntington High School, wrote a letter to the Vietnamese mission in NYC, which responded by allowing Mrazek to go to Vietnam and bring out an American-Vietnamese child named Le Van Minh, a beggar in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), whom the students had read about in their school's civics class. While in Vietnam, he met many Amerasian children who pleaded with Mrazek to find a way for them to "go to the land of my father." Mrazek's response was to author the bill, which became law. Since its passage, many Amerasian children were brought to the USA by the bill and went on, after graduating from college, to successful careers as teachers, entrepreneurs, and business people.
- The 1988 Manassas Battlefield Protection Act prevented the Civil War battlefield at Manassas, Virginia, from being turned into a shopping mall. In April, 1988, Mrazek inserted an amendment into an appropriations bill to prohibit federal funds from being used to plan and design a needed interchange near the 452 acre tract of land. Mrazek and Representative Michael Andrews (D-TX) led the fight in the House of Representatives to introduce H.R. 4526, which authorized the federal government to acquire the land and add it to the battlefield park. There was a contentious battle over the legislation; President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior Donal Hodel launched several personal attacks on Mrazek and Andrews, accusing them of "playing politics" with the battlefield but the bill drafted by the pair of junior Congressmen was signed into law by President Reagan in November, 1988.
- Mrazek's National Film Preservation Act was passed in 1988 to settle a heated conflict about the material alteration of classic motion pictures like High Noon and Casablanca, which were being colorized. Other films were being "time-compressed" by television broadcasters to allow the insertion of more commercials. Mrazek proposed protecting classic American films from significant alteration without the permission of the films' creators. While the "Mrazek Amendment" was being considered, it generated a vigorous lobbying campaign led by Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Association, on behalf of the major film studios . Valenti argued that the proposal was going to put "a spike in the eye of normal House procedure and [create] a group ... [like one] out of 1984." On Mrazek's side were many notables in Hollywood's creative community: actors Burt Lancaster and James Stewart, directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, all of whom wanted to see the integrity of their work preserved without alteration. Ultimately the Mrazek amendment prevailed, establishing the National Film Registry, identifying 25 films per year "culturally, historically, or esthetically significant" to be protected by the Library of Congress. The law also set up the National Film Preservation Board to explore new approaches to saving endangered work. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on September 27, 1988.
- In 1990, the Tongass Timber Reform Act, which affected logging operations in the nation's largest national forest, was signed into law by President George H. Bush. The law was first introduced by Mrazek in 1986 and was the subject of several years of contentious debate between its author and members of the Alaska Congressional delegation, including Representative Don Young (R-AK) and Senator Ted Stevens. After Young was defeated in a House vote on a Mrazek amendment in 1990, Young allegedly "went berserk." He tracked Mrazek down in a House corridor and threatened him with a knife. Mrazek's law, a landmark in conservation law, revoked the artificially high timber cutting targets, protecting over two million acres of Tongaas old-growth forest and watershed acreage, mandating broad buffers for all salmon and resident fishing streams.
For conservation and preservation work, the Director’s Guild of America awarded Mrazek its first Legislative Achievement Award in 1987; in 1988, Mrazek, along with Andrews, was named a Conservationist of the Year by the NPCA, the National Parks Conservation Association, for their efforts to protect Manassas National Battlefield from adjacent land development. The Governor of New York gave Robert J. Mrazek the Commissioner’s Preservationist Award in 1990.