HIAS Mourns the Passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg

Posted on Mon, Jun 03, 2013 at 10:28 am

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, mourns the loss of Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey who died this morning at age 89. Growing up poor and the son of Jewish immigrants in Paterson turned Frank Lautenberg into a fighter, not just for the people of New Jersey, but for those living in danger many thousands of miles away. For more than two decades, the senator has championed legislation that has created a safe escape route to freedom for persecuted religious minorities.

In 1990, the Lautenberg Amendment began allowing Jews and other religious minorities from the former Soviet Union (FSU) to resettle in the U.S. as refugees. Today, the Lautenberg Amendment mostly helps Jews, Christians, Baha’is, and other religious minorities fleeing Iran. Mark Hetfield, HIAS’ President and CEO, said, “Senator Lautenberg has earned the gratitude of hundreds of thousands of refugees for providing them with the opportunity to start new lives in the United States in safety, peace, and freedom. Both the refugees and our country have tremendously benefitted from the Lautenberg Amendment. His memory will be a blessing to all of us.”

The Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill, S. 744, seeks to preserve Senator Lautenberg’s legacy of protecting persecuted religious minorities while creating new opportunities for other persecuted groups—with an emphasis on those seeking religious freedom—to receive protection.

“We are particularly grateful to Senator Lautenberg for his decades of unwavering commitment and leadership in protecting Jews and others who face persecution for their beliefs,” Hetfield said. HIAS will work to ensure that his legacy is honored in the current immigration reform debate and beyond.