New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg dies at 89

June 3, 2013

JTA Wire Service

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, whose signature law facilitated a flood of Soviet Jewish emigration just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died.

Lautenberg, 89, died Monday morning of viral pneumonia, his office said.

Two far-reaching laws bear the name of the Democrat, who served a combined 30 years in the U.S. Senate in two separate stints.

The first Lautenberg Amendment passed in 1990 facilitated the emigration of Soviet Jews by relaxing stringent standards for refugee status, granting immigrant status to those who could show religious persecution in their native lands.

The Lautenberg amendment loosened a restriction that required potential refugees to show a risk of imprisonment or death, allowing those who could show that their religion restricted their lives and careers to apply for immigrant status.

The amendment led to the emigration of tens of thousands of Soviet Jews and also was extended to religious minorities in Iran, Vietnam, Burma and other countries.

The second Lautenberg Amendment, passed in 1996, bans the sales of guns to those convicted of domestic violence.

Lautenberg, born to Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, was honored last week by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

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