Washington DC - Congressman Howard L. Berman, the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, applauded the extension of a provision known as the “Lautenberg Amendment,” to make it easier for victims of religious persecution in certain countries toseek refuge in the United States. The extension was included in the Omnibus bill to fund the government though September 30, 2012.

“For nearly 20 years the ‘Lautenberg Amendment’ has been a critical tool for allowing religious minorities from the Former Soviet Union, Southeast Asia, and Iranfacing persecution to seek refuge on our shores,” said Rep. Berman. “In places like Iran, where respect for religious freedom has deteriorated drastically, victims of religious persecution cannot wait any longer. By fast-tracking non-Shi’a religious groups in Iran, like the Baha'is, evangelical Christians, Jews and Sufi Muslims who are being targeted by the Ahmadinejad regime, we are opening a much needed escape route.”

“Unfortunately, religious intolerance is found in all corners of the globe,” continued Rep. Berman, “but, this extension will at least provide a lifeline for a group that desperately needs an outstretched arm.”

Rep. Berman was joined by his colleagues in signing two letters this year, one to Speaker Boehner,Majority Leader Cantor, Minority Leader Pelosi and Democratic Whip Hoyer, and another to the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith to reauthorize the Lautenberg Amendment for fiscal year 2012. The provision lapsed earlier this year without being renewed.