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Lautenberg Amendment Protecting Religious Refugees Extended a Year

A law facilitating resettlement for Iranian religious minorities, including Jews, seeking refuge was extended for another year.

The language, known as the Lautenberg amendment, was included in the massive spending bill passed by Congress and signed this week into law by President Barack Obama.

“The Lautenberg amendment has served as a lifeline for over two decades to tens of thousands of Jewish, Christian, Baha’i, and other religious minorities fleeing Iran and the Former Soviet Union,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a Jewish congressman who sponsored the language, said in a statement.

“Without it, there would be no recourse or refuge for many of these individuals,” Schiff said. “I am pleased that Congress supported my request for its extension, which will continue to provide a beacon of hope for those seeking safety from discrimination and abuse solely for their religious beliefs.”

The law, which loosens tough refugee status standards for designated persecuted religious minorities, is named for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who crafted it in the late 1980s to assist Jews seeking a path out of the Soviet Union.

In addition to assisting religious minorities in the former Soviet Union and Iran, it has also been used to assist refugees leaving Vietnam, Cambodia and other countries where religious practice has become an obstacle to equal status.

The language must be renewed with each year’s budget. HIAS, the Jewish group that leads community advocacy on immigration issues, has in recent years attempted to convince Congress to make the law permanent.

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