Today, U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced that the Continuing Resolution (CR) funding bill that passed the Senate yesterday and the House of Representatives today includes an extension of the Lautenberg Amendment for refugees through the end of Fiscal Year 2013. The program, which facilitates the processing of refugee status for certain persecuted religious minorities, expired earlier this year despite protests from numerous religious and immigration organizations. The CR now goes to the White House to be signed into law.
"With Iran's repressive regime continuing to persecute religious minorities in that country, the House and Senate's extension of the Lautenberg Amendment is especially important," said Lautenberg. "More than twenty years ago, I created this program to allow religious minorities to escape persecution and live safely in the United States. When the President signs the extension into law, this critical lifeline will be restored and provide religious minorities with a safe means of exit and access to refugee status in the United States."
The Lautenberg Amendment, enacted in 1989, originally provided a presumption of eligibility for refugee status for certain categories of people from the Former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia. Today, the Lautenberg Amendment mostly serves to facilitate the resettlement of Jews, Christians, Baha'is, and other religious minorities fleeing Iran, which was added to the Lautenberg Amendment in 2004. The program has historically been extended in appropriations legislation each year.
Without the Lautenberg Amendment, U.S. refugee processing of Iranian religious minorities would be limited or even terminated.