WASHINGTON -- Democrats backing the immigration reform plan pending in the Senate passage have named a section to honor the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat who had championed the rights of religious refugees.
"Frank was the Senate's champion in fighting to protect refugees and religious minorities fleeing persecution," said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat and one member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" writing the immigration bill. "That’s why we wanted to honor his legacy by naming the significant refugee and asylum provisions in this bill after him, including a provision extending the principles underlying the ‘Lautenberg Amendment’ which has provided a pathway to protection and opportunity for so many who have come to our shores."
One section of the bill has been renamed the "Frank R. Lautenberg Asylum and Refugee Reform Act." It expands protections for certain refugees fleeing persecution in other countries, in part by allowing the president to designate vulnerable groups for faster processing. The previous law already allowed such designations for some religious minorities.
According to Menendez's office, the "Lautenberg Amendment" has helped tens of thousands of Jews and other religious minorities from the former Soviet Union to gain refugee status and protection in the United States since 1990.