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Letter to Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Cantor and Minority Whip Hoyer

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Cantor, Minority Whip Hoyer,

We are writing to urge you to take swift action to renew the "Lautenberg Amendment", a critical tool for protecting religious minorities escaping sever violations of religious freedom who seek refuge int eh United States

The Lautenberg Amendment, enacted as part of the 1990 Operations Appropriations Bil, established a presumption of refugee eligibility for certain categories of people from the Former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia. Since 2004, the Lautenberg Amendment has served to facilitate the escape of Iranian minorities, including Jews, Christians and Baha'i

Each year since 1999 the Secretary of State has designated Iran as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom act for egregious violations of religious freedom against religious minorities. According to the 2011 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, "Since the disputed June 12, 2009 elections, human rights and religious freedom conditions in Iran have regressed to a point not seen since the early days of the Islamic Revolution".

Without the Lautenberg Amendment, the ability of the US to protect these persecuted religious minorities would be greatly diminished. Under US law, a person may be granted refugee status only if he or she can establish a "well-founded fear of persecution" on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. The Lautenberg Amendment was enacted because US refugee adjudications of Iranian religious minorities were inconsistent in their determinations about whether cases of discrimination and hostility on the bases of religion by state and non-state actors rose to the level of persecution.

Before the Lautenberg Amendment was expanded to include Iranian religious minorities, the Austrian government closed down he US processing program in Vienna for Iranian religious minorities because too many Iranians were stranded in Vienna when US refugee adjudicators rejected their cases. The Austrian government only allowed th US to restart processing after the Lautenberg Amendment was extended to these groups. Without the Lautenberg Amendment, US refugee processing in Austria of Iranian Christians, Jews and Baha'i would be limited or even terminated.

The Lautenberg Amendment does not provide access to the US refugee resettlement program. Rather, it eases the burden of proof for the applicant after the State Department has invited a particular group to apply for refugee status for reasons of "humanitarian concern". The Lautenberg Amendment requires no appropriated funds, as individuals who tome to the US enter the program enter as refugees and are subject to the annual numerical limits on refugee admission.

The lapse of this provision between September 30, 2010 until it was temporarily reinstated on April1 5 2011 in the Continuing Appropriation Act of 2011 (P.L.112-10) , put nearly 800 Iranians seeking processing in Vienna at great risk. Since the provision expired again on June 1, 2011, this critical safety valve for Christians, Jews, Baha'i and other hoping to escape pervasive discrimination and oppression in Iran has closed again.

We urge you to act in an expeditious manner to reauthorize this program and avoid bringing undue attention the program that could put religious minorities at further risk. We look forward to working with you to quickly reauthorize this vital program, which offers vulnerable religious minorities a safe and reliable way to escape from harm's way

Sincerely,

Robert J Dold Henry Waxman
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Trent Franks Heath Shuler
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Frank R Wolf James P McGovern
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Howard L Berman
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Christopher H Smith Alcee L Hastings
Member of Congress Member of Congress

John Conyers Jr Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Patrick J Tiberi James R Langevin
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Debbie Wasserman Shultz Erik Paulsen
Member of Congress Member of Congress

David N Cicilline Lloyed Dogget
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Anna G Eshoo Jackie Speier
Member of Congress Member of Congress

William R Keating Vern Buchanan
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Peter T King Aaron Schock
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Jerrold Nadler Charles B Rangel
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Maxine Waters Nita M Lowey
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Stephen F Lynch Janice D Schakowsky
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Jesse L Jackson, JR Jospeh Crowley
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Eni H Faleomavaega Adam B Schiff
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Karen Bass Linda T Sanchez
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Bob Filner Dennis A Cardoza
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Steve Israel Randy Forbes
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Henry Cuellar Madeleine Z Bordallo
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Shelly Berkley John Lewis
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David Rivera John Carter
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Leonard Lance Joseph R Pitts
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Ted Poe Randy Hultgren
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Mario Diaz Balart John A Yarmuth
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Steve Austria Jared Polis
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Micheal G Grimm Steve Cohen
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Steve Stivers Marcia L Fudge
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Theodore E Deutch Keith Ellison
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Jim McDermott Jon W Olver
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Allyson Y Schwartz Rush D Holt
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Laura Richardson Sander M Levin
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Michael E Capuano Henry C "Hank" Johnson, Jr
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Charles A Gonzalez Raul M Grijalva
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Judy Chu Garcy C Peters
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Allen B West Micheal M Honda
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Betty McCollum Jeff Fortenberry
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Eliot L Engel Gary L Ackerman
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Judy Biggert Joe Wilson
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Donald A Manzullo Gregory W Meeks
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Edolphus Towns James P Moran
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Elijah E Cummings Thaddeus G McCotter
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Brad Sherman Luis V Gutierrez
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Barney Frank Steven R Rothman
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Robert E Andrews Carolyn B Maloney
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Bobby L Rush Albio Sires
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Donald M Payne Carolyn McCarthy
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Jean Schmidt Gene Green
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Frank Pallone Jr Susan A Davis
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Bill Pascrell Jr Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Member of Congress Member of Congress

Mike Quigley Robert Brady
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Doug Lamborn Christopher S Murphy
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Daniel Lipinski Frank A Lobiondo
Member of Congress Member of Congress


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