Congressman J. Gresham Barrett (R-SC/3rd) announced his plans to reintroduce the Stop Terrorists Entry Program Act (STEP) into the House of Representatives, a bill he originally introduced in 2003. According to a press release from Congressman Barrett’s office, the STEP Act would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar the entry of individuals to the United States from countries that are State Sponsors of Terrorism, including Iran, as well as Yemen.
If enacted, the proposed legislation could effectively forbid all Iranians from immigrating, visiting, or studying in the United States. Individuals seeking political or religious asylum, as well as those requiring emergency medical treatment, may be exempt from the provisions.
The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) strongly favors taking appropriate and necessary measures to protect the national security of the United States. However, PAAIA is concerned that a member of the US Congress plans to introduce legislation that effectively could ban individuals from coming to America based on their nationality. Such proposed legislation is not only discriminatory but also has the potential to encourage xenophobia and hatred.
The STEP Act is not only damaging to America’s reputation, it is also extremely offensive to the Iranian American community. Iranian Americans are hard-working, law-abiding citizens who have done much to strengthen the economic and social fabric of the United States. Furthermore, recent events unfolding in Iran following the disputed June 12 presidential elections, highlight the fact that the Iranian people seek democratic freedoms and basic human rights. In fact, it was the Iranian people who held candle-lit vigils on the streets of Tehran in solidarity with the American people in the days following the 9/11 attacks.
Legislation such as the STEP Act would not only impose unfair and unreasonable burden on Americans of Iranian descent but also unfairly targets the Iranian people, undermining the solidarity between the peoples of Iran and America.
In light of these facts, PAAIA is in the process of contacting members of Congress to inform them of our opposition to the STEP Act. PAAIA will carefully monitor this issue and report on developments as they become available.
If you would like to ask your member of Congress to oppose the STEP Act if it is reintroduced, go to PAAIA’s Online Action Center at: http://capwiz.com/paaia/issues/alert/?alertid=14531601 .