Today, U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced that the comprehensive immigration bill unveiled by the "Gang of Eight" includes an extension and expansion of the Lautenberg Amendment for refugees.
"More than twenty years ago, I created this program to allow religious minorities to escape persecution and live safely in the United States. I applaud the Gang of Eight for recognizing the importance of the Lautenberg Amendment and including an extension and expansion of the program in the comprehensive immigration bill. Expanding the Lautenberg Amendment will allow this critical lifeline to provide additional groups of persecuted individuals with a safe means of exit and access to refugee in the United States," said Lautenberg.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), a member of the "Gang of Eight," helped Lautenberg champion the provision's inclusion in the proposed immigration bill.
The Lautenberg Amendment program, which facilitates the processing of refugee status for certain persecuted religious minorities, has historically been extended in appropriations legislation each year and is currently authorized until the end of Fiscal Year 2013. Under the immigration bill, the program would be extended and the President would have the authority to expand the program to include other groups that are victims of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
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. Since 2004, the Lautenberg Amendment has mostly served to facilitate the resettlement of Jews, Christians, Baha'is, and other religious minorities fleeing Iran. Without the Lautenberg Amendment, U.S. refugee processing of Iranian religious minorities would be limited or even terminated.