Travel ban may keep Iraqi lawmaker from receiving prize named for Holocaust survivor


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Yazidi leader may be prevented from receiving a prize named for Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, because of the Trump administration’s travel ban.

Vian Dakhil, a member of the Iraqi parliament who has led the effort to raise awareness of the mass killings of her people at the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group also known as ISIS, is slated to receive the prize Feb. 8 in the U.S. Capitol.

Katrina Lantos Swett, the daughter of the late Democratic congressman from California, on Monday decried President Donald Trump’s executive order signed last week placing a temporary travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq.

“My father, the late Tom Lantos, came to this country as a penniless immigrant and went on to become the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress,” Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation, which confers the Lantos Human Rights Prize, said in a statement.

“When we deny entry to all citizens of Muslim majority countries, we disrespect our fundamental American values – indeed, the values that truly make America great,” Swett said. “When we have to question whether a hero like Vian Dakhil, who has risked her life to fight the genocidal terrorists of ISIS, will be allowed into our country to receive a human rights prize in the shadow of the Capitol dome, we should all be deeply concerned.”

Lantos was a prominent advocate for human rights during his nearly three decades in office.

The Washington Post called Dakhil’s case “a startling example of how the executive order signed by President Trump is having unintended consequences and ensnaring not only those who have no links to terrorism but also those who have risked their lives to fight terrorism in cooperation with the United States.”

Prior recipients of the prize named for him include the late Israeli President Shimon Peres; Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state who lost to Trump in the 2016 presidential election; the Dalai Lama; and Elie Wiesel, the late Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

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