Congress extends Lautenberg amendment

WASHINGTON (JTA) – An extension to the Lautenberg Amendment, a law facilitating immigration for victims of religious persecution, including Jews, was included in the funding bill passed by Congress.

The continuing resolution approved by the Senate on Wednesday and the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday extends government spending until October and includes in it the Lautenberg Amendment, which facilitates the exit from Iran of members of the Jewish, Christian and Baha’i minorities. Named for its original author, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the amendment was first passed in 1990 to facilitate the exit of Jews from the Soviet Union.

“As we prepare to celebrate Passover, we are thankful for Congress’ continuing commitment to protecting Jews, Christians, Baha’is, and other persecuted religious minorities in Iran," the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which led lobbying for the amendment’s extension, said in a statement.

Lautenberg, who is retiring next year, celebrated the amendment’s approval.

"More than 20 years ago, I created this program to allow religious minorities to escape persecution and live safely in the United States," he said in a statement. "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.”  

Also included in the continuing resolution was $10 million in Homeland Security funding for securing non-profits. Most of such allocations in the past have gone to Jewish organizations. The Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America, groups that lobbied for the funding, praised the allocation.

“Since Sept. 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the targets of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” said William Daroff, JFNA’s Washington director. “We are incredibly grateful for the bipartisan, bicameral support for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, as it is a proven, critical resource that helps supplement the work of local and federal law enforcement to help keep us safe.”

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