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Iran refugee program survives in budget

ICC Note:

A U.S. program that offers persecuted Christians from Iran the opportunity to receive asylum in the U.S. was temporary reprieved by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith after a lobbying campaign by ICC and other Christian groups. Click here to see ICC’s press release Iranian Christians Endangered by Congressional Budget Cuts.

By Ben Smith

4/12/2011 Iran, U.S. (Politico) – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has granted a temporary reprieve to a program aimed at making it easier for religious minorities in Iran to be granted asylum in the United States.

As I reported earlier this year, the Lautenberg Amendment, pushed by Senators Frank Lautenberg and Mark Kirk, has long been part of appropriations legislation, but the new House Republican majority has, for procedural reasons, sought to purge policy legislation out of the appropriations process, and Smith’s staff told me that the bill would have to pass through “regular order.”

A source noted today that language temporarily extending the program did make its way into the fiscal year 2011 budget agreement, and Smith tells me in a statement through a spokeswoman:

The persecution of religious minorities is an unacceptable action and an important issue for Congress to address. Since 1990, the Lautenberg Amendment has been renewed annually in appropriations legislation but has never been enacted through regular order as a stand-alone bill. Because Congress has the constitutional duty to oversee our immigration policy, I plan to hold an oversight hearing on our refugee program later this year, which will also include the Lautenberg Amendment.

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