Lantos Commission Co-Chairs’ Statement on Denial of Applications from Refugees Fleeing Iranian Persecution
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and James P. McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, expressed disappointment and concern in response to reports that the Department of Homeland Security has denied refugee status in the United States for some Iranians who are Christians or members of other religious minorities in Iran.
“We are disappointed by reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has denied visas to some of the approximately 100 Iranians in Austria who, for over a year, have been awaiting a decision on their applications for refugee status. These Iranians are members of religious minorities fleeing a regime that has brutally oppressed their communities since 1979. This being the case, they should be presumed eligible for admittance to the United States as refugees under the Lautenberg Amendment.
“After years of successful and prompt admittance of Iranian religious minorities to the United States under the Lautenberg program, DHS must provide Congress with details about these visa denials. And whatever the reasons, we hope the other persecuted Iranians temporarily residing in Austria will receive prompt approvals: their safety and security should be our top priority. Under no circumstance should those seeking refugee status be repatriated to Iran, where they could be subjected to arrest and torture. We urge our allies to engage and offer safe harbor to these refugees.
“Furthermore, as we stated in our recent letter to Vice President Pence, ‘we expect the program to resume as it had before. DHS and State must make every effort to continue to accept the thousands of Iranian religious minorities currently waiting in Iran, and take steps to prioritize and expedite any relevant security checks.’”