Washington, DC – Congress is sending legislation to President Bush that will finally erase a government-imposed stigma against association with the African National Congress of South Africa. Last night the House and Senate came to agreement on legislation by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-CA) that will remove from U.S. databases any notation characterizing the ANC and its leaders -- including Nobel Laureate and former South African President Nelson Mandela -- as terrorists.
“Congress finally stands ready to rid U.S. immigration law of this anachronistic blight,” Berman noted. “The Senate and House have now both affirmed that America’s place is on the side of those who fought against Apartheid, and there should be no discrimination in our legal code based on their ANC association alone.”For decades the ANC resisted Apartheid and advocated the rights of black South Africans – first through nonviolence and community activism, and then through the actions of its military wing. The South African government banned the ANC in 1960, and the United States denied entry to ANC members based on the group’s activities. With the end of Apartheid in 1990, the ANC grew to become the leading political party; it continues to lead South Africa in a multiracial, multiparty democracy.
Berman’s bill (H.R. 5690), which passed the House on May 8, effectively removes the stain of the “terrorist” label from the names of current and former African National Congress members. House co-sponsors are Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Africa Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne (D-NJ), and Foreign Affairs Committee members Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), and Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Peter Welch (D-VT). The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation yesterday, and the Senate passed it unanimously last night. On the heels of Senate passage, the House approved the final version of the legislation as well.
When the measure becomes law, ANC membership alone will no longer trigger additional investigation into an individual’s application for a visa to the United States. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called the additional review of ANC members’ visas “embarrassing” and has advocated a legislative change to lift it.