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
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 23 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators Christopher Murphy (D-CT) Susan Collins (R-ME), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), 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.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 co-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 is Representative Jeff Duncan (R-SC/3rd), and has been referred to the 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. H.R. 140 was introduced in the Senate as S.301 on February 13, 2013 by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). S.301 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.
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 co-sponsor (Representative Issa), and has been referred to the 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 co-sponsor (Representative Issa), and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. H.R. 459 was introduced in the Senate as S.303 on February 13, 2013 by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). S.303 has one co-sponsor (Senator Vitter), and has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
The STEM 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 Act would also eliminate the diversity immigrant program.
H.R.717 (Reuniting Families Act): To ensure the efficiency of visa allocations and eliminate discrimination in immigration law.
On February 14, 2013, Representative Michael Honda (D-17th/CA) introduced H.R.717, also known as the Reuniting Families Act. The legislation has a total of 62 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
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.
S.559: A bill to establish a fund to make payments to the Americans held hostage in Iran, and to members of their families.
On March 13, 2013, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced S.559. 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. Each person held hostage could receive $10,000.
S.RES.65: Resolution Expressing Concern about Iranian Nuclear Program
On February 28, 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced S.RES.65. The legislation has gained a total of 76 cosponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and John Thune (R-SD), and has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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 7 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mike Johanns (R-NE), 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 2 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
H.R. 301: To provide for the establishment of a Special Envoy to promote religious freedom of religious minorities.
On January 15, 2013, Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-10th/VA) introduced H.R.301. The legislation has gained a total of 38 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom include Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH/6th) and Judy Chu (D-CA/27th) and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
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.
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. The legislation has gained a total of 13 co-sponsors, the most recent of whom are Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA/20th) and Peter Welch (D-VA/AL), and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
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. 850: Nuclear 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 208 cosponsors, and has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Trade.
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.