For Immediate Release:
October 22, 1998
Contact: Lindsey Paige Taxman (ext. 16)
"Wednesday's extension of the Lautenberg Amendment is a crucial part of U.S. humanitarian policy as an indication of our country's deep commitment to religious minorities," stated Gideon Aronoff, deputy director of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ). "Extending this amendment was essential to continue to facilitate the admission of Jews and other persecuted minorities in the former Soviet Union (FSU) as refugees to the United States," Aronoff continued. "With the increase of political and economic uncertainty and scapegoating in the FSU, especially in the Russian Federation, the extension of the Lautenberg Amendment is necessary to ensure the well-being and safety of all Jews and other religious minorities in the region."
The Lautenberg Amendment was extended through September 30, 1999, as part of President Clinton's huge year-end spending bill yesterday. It was first enacted in 1989, assisting thousands of Jews, Evangelical Christians, and other religious minorities in the FSU and Indochina gain refugee status in the U.S. by requiring that the historic persecution of the stipulated groups be taken into consideration when determining whether to grant refugee status. The Lautenberg Amendment recognizes that the historic context of the experiences of Jews and other minorities in the FSU during this century is vital in making decisions about refugee status.
UCSJ salutes Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), sponsor and originator of the amendment, who has continued to fight to protect religious refugees in the FSU. In addition, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) was particularly instrumental in ensuring the extension of the Lautenberg Amendment this year and has been a long-time supporter of the cause of human rights in the FSU.
A coalition of organizations joining UCSJ, including Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), and the American Association of Jews from the former Soviet Union (AAJFSU), has worked tirelessly to promote this important manifestation of the United States' concern for religious freedom. "As long as antisemitism, fascism, and religious persecution continues in the FSU, the Lautenberg Amendment will continue to be an important message that everyone must be dedicated to the struggle to defend the rights of these refugees," proclaimed UCSJ president, Yosef I. Abramowitz.
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