A bipartisan coalition of 23 Senators is calling on leaders from the Senate Appropriations Committee to extend the Lautenberg Amendment, which protects certain religious minorities fleeing persecution.  The call is part of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill they are crafting. 

U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg and Mark Kirk drafted a letter.  "It is critical that the Lautenberg Amendment be extended promptly, as it would demonstrate the U.S commitment to human rights and religious freedom in Iran," the Senators wrote.  "According to the Department of State, over 400,000 religious minorities from the Former Soviet Union and Iran have been able to enter the U.S. under the Lautenberg Amendment."

Originally enacted as part of the FY 1990 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, the Lautenberg Amendment established a presumption of eligibility for refugee status for certain categories of people from the Former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia.  Other religious minorities who were fleeing Iran were added to the measure in 2004.