HIAS Strongly Urges U.S. Relatives of Those at Risk to Apply for Refugee Status Immediately

Posted on Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, is gratified that an extension of the Lautenberg Amendment has been included in the FY2011 Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1473), signed into law today by President Obama. The Lautenberg Amendment, which facilitates the processing for U.S. refugee status for Jews and other historically persecuted religious minorities from Iran and the former Soviet Union (FSU), expired on October 1, 2010. It was attached to the CR through the efforts of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), along with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

The Lautenberg Amendment, as included in the Continuing Resolution, will only be extended to June 1, 2011; this will allow applications filed since Oct. 1, 2010 to be considered retroactively. New applications will also be considered only until June 1, 2011.

According to Gideon Aronoff, President & CEO of HIAS: “It is extremely important that our former HIAS clients waste no time in notifying relatives in the FSU or Iran of this temporary extension of the Lautenberg Amendment. Anyone eligible for the refugee program who is considering leaving their homeland for the U.S. must complete and submit refugee applications without delay.

“HIAS is redoubling its efforts to advocate for legislation that will continue to keep America’s doors open to those who flee religious persecution, even after the June 1 deadline has passed. In the meantime, however, eligible refugee applicants from Iran and the FSU should assume that this may be their last opportunity with the U.S. Refugee Program.”

Those interested in applying on behalf of relatives at risk residing in either the FSU or Iran should contact their local resettlement agency or HIAS immediately at (800) HIAS-714.

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.” HIAS and the Jewish community have worked diligently with Sen. Lautenberg’s office over the years for the Amendment’s consistent renewal; in 2003 it was expanded to include religious minorities from Iran.