WASHINGTON (JTA) — The top U.S. Jewish immigrant defense group urged potential refugee status applicants in Iran and the former Soviet Union to apply under an act just extended by Congress.
"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," said a statement Monday by Gideon Aronoff, the president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. "Anyone eligible for the refugee program who is considering leaving their homeland for the U.S. must complete and submit refugee applications without delay."
The Lautenberg amendment was extended until June 1 as part of an omnibus funding bill signed into law last week by President Obama.
The amendment broadens the definition of religious refugee for groups designated by the State Department as "of humanitarian concern."
Its effect is to clear bureaucratic hurdles built in to the U.S. refugee system in order to fast-track groups in immediate danger.
The extension was initiated by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who sponsored the original law in 1990, and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).