By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, July 19: A bill to provide 3,000 immigrant visas to Tibetans has been introduced in the US House on Thursday.
U.S. Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the Tibetan Refugee Assistance Act on July 17 to provide 3,000 immigrant visas to long-staying Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal, according to a report by International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).
The Tibetan Refugee Assistance Act extends support by providing 3,000 immigrant visas to qualified Tibetans over a three year period, ICT’s report explained.
Congressmen Miller and senior Republican lawmaker Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. traveled to Dharamsala, India, as part of the 10-member Congressional delegation in March
this year to explore ways to demonstrate support for the Tibetan people and. The delegation led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and expressed concern for the worsening situation in Tibet following widespread anti-China unrest.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and nine other members of the US congress, including Representatives George Miller and senior Republican lawmaker Jim Sensenbrenner Jr., met with the Tibetan leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in Dharamsala on March 21, 2008 (Photo by Tenzin Dasel / Phayul.
Following their visit, Speaker Pelosi, with the members of a bipartisan congressional delegation, also introduced House Resolution 1077
on April 3 which calls on China to cease the crackdown, release protestors, provide unfettered access to journalists and independent international monitors to Tibet, and engage in a results-based dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
"Our legislation represents one small but very significant step that the Congress can take to help the Tibetan people," Rep. Miller was quoted as saying of the immigration bill introduced in the House on Thursday.
"The Tibetans face severe persecution under the Chinese government and must be recognized by the United States for refugee assistance. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Rep. Sensenbrenner and our other colleagues to address this particular problem and I look forward to working with the State Department as this bill moves forward," he said.
The introduction of the immigration bill in the House (H.R.6536: To provide for the admission to the United States of certain Tibetans
) is the first step in a long legislative process. Introduced bills go first to Congressional Committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate.
"The plight of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists is well-known," said Representative Sensenbrenner.
"During the course of the trip in March, I had the opportunity to experience one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life - the privilege of meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, head of state and spiritual leader of Tibet. The meeting provided the delegation with the opportunity to have a frank and comprehensive discussion about the plight of the Tibetan people...with very few options available to them...the legislation Congressman Miller and I introduced today will provide relief...," he said.
Earlier, during the trip to Dharamsala, Congressman Sensenbrenner said, “In United States Congress, there is no division between Democrats and Republicans on the issue of protecting the Tibetan culture and eliminating the repression in Tibet and elsewhere around the world,” He also insisted China on the need to hold dialogue with the Dalai Lama and resolve Tibet issue through non-violence.
In 2006, Washington had, as part of its refugee resettlement programme, arranged to offer a home in the US to 5,000 Tibetan refugees from Nepal. However, the offer did not materialise because the Nepalese government did not respond, apparently due to pressure from China. Tibetan refugees living in Nepal need an exit permit from the government to travel outside Nepal.