WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today is urging the Biden administration to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to democracy and human rights worldwide by creating a new limited visa category for human rights defenders facing imminent grave danger and persecution. Against the backdrop of dramatic increases in attacks on human rights defenders around the globe, Chairman Menendez highlighted the importance of enhancing protections to support their efforts to advance fundamental freedoms, promote good governance, and speak truth to power.
“Around the world, human rights defenders are our first line of defense against the rising tide of authoritarianism and democratic backsliding. Yet year after year, they are increasingly threatened or attacked for peacefully seeking to advance democratic principles and human rights,” Chairman Menendez wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden. “By providing those most at risk with a modest safety net, the United States can bolster the ability of human rights defenders to carry out their critical work.”
Chairman Menendez asserted that by creating a multiple-entry, multi-year visa for human rights defenders who need to flee their country of origin, the Biden administration would not only send a powerful message to human rights defenders everywhere that the we support their efforts, but also a warning to autocrats and would-be autocrats that the U.S. is watching and willing to take action.