HIAS Welcomes Extension of Lautenberg Amendment to Protect Religious Minorities in Iran and Former Soviet Union

Posted on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 15:48 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, applauds the passage of the most recent stopgap spending legislation, which is expected to be signed by President Obama in the coming days. This legislation renews the Lautenberg Amendment, which allows Jews and other historically persecuted religious minorities from Iran and the former Soviet Union (FSU) to come to the U.S. as refugees. It had expired on September 30, 2012.

The spending bill – known as the “Continuing Resolution” – extends the Lautenberg Amendment through September 30, 2013.

According to Mark Hetfield, President & CEO of HIAS: “We are grateful to House and Senate leadership and appropriators for ensuring that that this critical piece of legislation was enacted. With the reauthorization of the Lautenberg Amendment, a door to freedom for religious minorities in Iran and the former Soviet Union has been reopened.

“As we prepare to celebrate Passover, we are thankful for Congress’ continuing commitment to protecting Jews, Christians, Baha’is, and other persecuted religious minorities in Iran. We honor and thank Senator Lautenberg for his longstanding and tireless efforts on behalf of refugees.”

First passed in 1989, the Lautenberg Amendment enabled Vietnamese refugees in camps in Southeast Asia, as well as Jews and Evangelical Christians from the USSR, to be approved for refugee status based on the historical mistreatment of these populations, without needing to prove that the severe discrimination they experienced constituted “persecution.” It has been consistently renewed over the years, and was expanded in 2004 to include religious minorities from Iran.