29
Apr

Congressional Round Up

Congress is considering a number of legislative initiatives that may be of interest to the Iranian American community.  The PAAIA Public Policy Center is pleased to provide a round-up on the status of the legislation. In general, PAAIA focuses on bills and congressional actions concerning three areas: civil liberties, foreign policy towards Iran, and immigration.  PAAIA recognizes that it is important that Iranian Americans be informed about legislative initiatives in these areas and the positions that their members of Congress take concerning them.

 

Bills & Resolutions

 

Immigration

S. 169:  I-Squared Act of 2013/Immigration Innovation Act of 2013

On January 29, 2013, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced S.169, also known as the I-Squared Act of 2013 or the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013. The legislation has gained a total of 26 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), and has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

S.169 would permit an increase or decrease of H-1B visa quotas based on the economy (the quota is between 65,000 and 115,000 visas), and dependent H-1B spouses could apply for work authorization. The bill would allow nonimmigrant workers with E, H, L, O, and P visas to renew the visas as long as the workers remained eligible for them, and give students a means to pursue permanent residence in the U.S. Previously approved but unused immigrant visas from previous years could be used in the current year.  Visa quotas for employment-based immigrant visas would be lifted for dependents of employment-based immigrant visa holders, certain researchers and professors, persons of ability and talent, and U.S. STEM advanced degree holders. Visa quotas based on per-country limits for employment-based visa petitions would be lifted.  Additionally, funds raised from H-1 visas and employment-based immigrant visas would be used to support science, engineering, technology, and math education, and to retrain workers in the U.S.

S.301Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013

On February 13, 2013, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced S.301, also known as the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013.  The legislation has gained a total of 3 co-sponsors–Senators Vitter, John Boozman (R-AR), and Mike Lee (R-UT)–and has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

S.301 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to consider a person born in the United States “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States for citizenship at birth purposes if the person is born in the United States of parents, one of whom is: (1) a U.S. citizen or national, (2) a lawful permanent resident alien whose residence is in the United States, or (3) an alien performing active service in the U.S. armed forces.  H.140 is the House version of S.301.

S. 303: STEM Jobs Act of 2013

On February 13, 2013, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced S.303, also known as the STEM Jobs Act of 2013.  The legislation has one sponsor (Senator Vitter), and has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

The STEM Jobs Act  would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make up to 55,000 visas available in fiscal year 2014 and subsequent fiscal years to qualified immigrants who: (1) have a doctorate degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM degree) from a U.S. doctoral institution of higher education; and (2) have taken all doctoral courses in a STEM field, including all courses taken by correspondence or by distance education, while physically present in the United States.

The act makes any such unused visas available to aliens who: (1) hold a master’s degree in a STEM field from a U.S. doctoral institution of higher education that was either part of a master’s program that required at least two years of enrollment or part of a five-year combined baccalaureate-master’s degree program in such field; (2) have taken all master’s degree courses in a STEM field, including all courses taken by correspondence or by distance education, while physically present in the United States; and (3) hold a baccalaureate degree in a STEM field or in a field included in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the summary group of biological and biomedical sciences. 

The STEM Jobs Act would also eliminate the diversity immigrant program.

A similar bill, H.R. 459, has been introduced in the House.

S.J. RES. 4: A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to United States citizenship

On January 23, 2013, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced S.J. RES. 4. The legislation currently has 1 sponsor (Senator Vitter) and has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

The resolution proposes that the Constitution be amended so that those born in the U.S. are no longer automatically U.S. citizens.  Under the proposal, such persons would only be citizens if one of their parents was a citizen, an alien “lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States who resides in the United States,” or an alien actively serving in the Armed Forces, or if they themselves (as opposed to either of their parents) became naturalized citizens.

H.R. 140: Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013

On January 3, 2013, Representative Stephen King (R-IA/4th) introduced H.R.140, also known as the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013.  The legislation has gained a total of 25 cosponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Jeff Duncan (R-SC/3rd), Paul C. Broun (R-GA/10th), Sam Graves (R-MO/6th), and Tom Graves (R-GA/14th) and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

H.R.140 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to consider a person born in the United States “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States for citizenship at birth purposes if the person is born in the United States of parents, one of whom is: (1) a U.S. citizen or national, (2) a lawful permanent resident alien whose residence is in the United States, or (3) an alien performing active service in the U.S. armed forces. S. 301 is the Senate version of H.R.140.

H.R. 458: Fallen Heroes Family Act of 2013

On February 4, 2013, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA/49th) introduced H.R.458, also known as the Fallen Heroes Family Act of 2013.  The legislation has gained at total of 1 sponsor (Representative Issa), and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

H.R.458 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for nonimmigrant status for an alien who is the parent or legal guardian of a United States citizen child if the child was born abroad and is the child of a deceased member of the armed forces of the United States.

H.R.459: STEM Visa Act of 2013

On February 4, 2013 Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA/49th) introduced H.R. 458, also known as the STEM Visa Act of 2013.  The legislation has gained a total of 1 sponsor (Representative Issa), and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The STEM Visa Act  would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make up to 55,000 visas available in fiscal year 2015 and subsequent fiscal years to qualified immigrants who: (1) have a doctorate degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM degree) from a U.S. doctoral institution of higher education; and (2) have taken all doctoral courses in a STEM field, including all courses taken by correspondence or by distance education, while physically present in the United States.

The act makes any such unused visas available to aliens who: (1) hold a master’s degree in a STEM field from a U.S. doctoral institution of higher education that was either part of a master’s program that required at least two years of enrollment or part of a five-year combined baccalaureate-master’s degree program in such field; and (2) have taken all master’s degree courses in a STEM field, including all courses taken by correspondence or by distance education, while physically present in the United States.

The STEM Visa Act would also eliminate the diversity immigrant program.

A similar bill, S.303, has been introduced in the Senate.

H.R.717: Reuniting Families Act

On February 14, 2013, Representative Michael Honda (D-CA/17th) introduced H.R.717, also known as the Reuniting Families Act.  The legislation has a total of 67 cosponsors, the most recent of whom is Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA/2nd), and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

H.R.717 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to help ensure that visas are allocated efficiently, and would reduce the wait times that often keep legal immigrants, and their loved ones overseas, separated for years. The bill would also eliminate discrimination in immigration law against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and their foreign-born partners.

 

Foreign Policy

S.559: Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013

On March 13, 2013, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced S.559, also known as the Justice for Former American Hostages in Iran Act of 2013.  The legislation has gained a total of 2 cosponsors, the most recent of whom is Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

S.559 would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a fund that would be used to pay claims of persons who were held hostage for 444 days in Iran (Tehran) when the U.S. embassy was seized there.  Those held hostage (or their family members) could receive $10,000.

S.653: Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013

On March 22, 2013, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced S.653, also known as the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013.  The legislation has gained a total of 3 co-sponsors—Senators Blunt, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Carl Levin (D-MI)–and has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

S. 653 provides for the establishment of a Special Envoy to promote religious freedom for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. The duties of the envoy would include monitoring and combating acts of incitement and intolerance directed against religious minorities, working to ensure that the economic and security needs of such minorities are met, and working with foreign governments in the Near East and South Central Asia to address laws that are religiously discriminatory. The Special Envoy would be subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State.  

A similar bill, H.R.301, has been introduced in the House.

S.RES.65: Resolution expressing concern about the Iranian nuclear program 

On February 28, 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced S.RES.65, also known as the Graham-Menendez resolution.  Menendez is the name of a cosponsor of the legislation, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).  The legislation has gained a total of 89 cosponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Jack Reed (D-RI), and has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 43.

S.RES.65 states that U.S. policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, supports the implementation and enforcement of U.S. and international sanctions against Iran to achieve that goal, states that the United States is committed to the existence, survival, and security of Israel, and affirms U.S. support for Israel’s right to self-defense.

S.RES.75: Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights

On March 12, 2013, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced S.RES.75.  The legislation has gained a total of 13 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Dean Heller (R-NV), and has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

S.RES.75 calls on Iran to release all prisoners being held solely on account of their religion.  It calls on the U.S. president and secretary of state, in cooperation with responsible nations, to condemn Iran’s continued human rights violations and demand that prisoners held for their religious beliefs be released.  S.RES.75 also urges the president and secretary to impose sanctions on Iranian government officials and other individuals directly responsible to serious human rights abuses, including abuses against Iran’s Baha’i community. 

S.RES.75 has also been introduced in the House of Represenatives as H.RES.109 by Representative Michael G. Grimm (R-NY/11th), where it has a total of 3 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom is Representative Peter J. Roskam (R-IL/6th), and has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

H.R. 301: Provides for the establishment of the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia

On January 15, 2013, Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-10th/VA) introduced H.R.301. The legislation has gained a total of 43 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom include Reps. John Larson (D-CT/1st), Mark Meadows (R-NC/11th), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA/19th), and Tim Griffin (R-AR/2nd), and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

H.R. 301 provides for the establishment of a Special Envoy to promote religious freedom for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. The duties of the envoy would include monitoring and combating acts of incitement and intolerance directed against religious minorities, working to ensure that the economic and security needs of such minorities are met, and working with foreign governments in the Near East and South Central Asia to address laws that are religiously discriminatory. The Special Envoy would be subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State.  

A similar bill, S.653, has been introduced in the Senate.

H.R. 783:  Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Diplomacy Act

On February 15, 2013, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA/13th) introduced H.R. 783, also known as the Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Diplomacy Act.  The legislation has gained a total of 18 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX/30th) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC/At Large), and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

H.R.783 directs the President to appoint a high-level U.S. representative or special envoy for Iran who shall: (1) seek to ease tensions and normalize relations between the United States and Iran through bilateral and multilateral negotiations, (2) lead U.S. diplomatic efforts with regard to Iran, and (3) act as liaison with U.S. and international intelligence agencies. The bill also directs the Secretary of State to: (1) rescind the no contact policy with Iran, and (2) establish an office in the Department of State to support the work of the representative or special envoy.

H.R. 850Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013

On February 27, 2013, Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA/39th) introduced H.R. 850, also known as the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013.  The legislation has a total of 300 cosponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Ken Calvert (R-CA/42nd), K. Michael Conaway (R-TX/11th), Marcia Fudge (D-OH/11th), and Martin Stutzman (R-IN/3rd), and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

H.R.850 would limit business transactions with Iran, increase the list of Iranian companies and individuals affected by existing sanctions, and potentially block Iran from having access to its foreign bank assets which are held in euros.  The bill would punish foreign individuals and companies that violate U.S. sanctions on Iran by threatening them with restrictions on their ability to do business with the United States.  H.R.850 would also designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, and impose sanctions on certain individuals in Iran responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses, engaging in censorship, or engaging in the diversion of goods intended for the Iranian people.

H.RES.183: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Broadcasting Board of Governors should broadcast and direct Azeri language content into Iran and Balochi language content into Iran and Pakistan

On April 25, 2013, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA/48th) introduced H.RES.183.  The legislation currently has one sponsor (Representative Rohrabacher), and has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

H.R. 183 stated that the Azeri and Baloch peoples have a right to self-determination, and calls for the Broadcasting Board of Governors to broadcast Azeri language material into Iran and Balochi language material into Iran and Pakistan.

 Special Category:

H.CONG.RES.27: Supporting the formation of a bipartisan Presidential Commission to study the establishment of a National Museum of the American People

On March 19, 2013, Representative James P. Moran (D-VA/8th) introduced H.CONG.RES.27.  The legislation has gained a total of 18 cosponsors, the most recent of whom is Representative Nita M. Lowey (D-NY/17th), and has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

H.CONG.RES.27 would create a presidential commission to study the establishment of a National Museum of the American People.  The museum would tell the story of all the peoples who came to the United States and contributed to its success and prosperity.  The museum would also serve as a resource to assist state, local, and ethnic museums in presenting exhibits that celebrate the heritage of the people of the United States.

H.RES.130: Recognizes the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz and acknowledging the Cyrus Cylinder as a symbol of respect for human rights and religious tolerance

On March 20, 2013, Representative Henry Waxman (R-CA/33rd) introduced H.RES.130.  The legislation has a total of 16 cosponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA/19th), Steve Stockman (R-TX/36th), and John K. Delaney (D-MD/6th), and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

H.RES.130 details the impact of the Cyrus Cylinder in history, noting that it has come to symbolize one of mankind’s first documents of human rights, and acknowledges the historical significance of the cylinder’s first tour of the United States in 2013.

 

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