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Dear Editor:
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service issued the following press release today: On Tuesday, November 25 the U.S. Senate adopted the Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act of 2003 by unanimous consent. The House of Representatives also adopted the bill. "Repressive governments often use torture as a weapon against democracy," said Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr. "A significant number of refugees and asylees entering the United States have been victims of torture. This bill demonstrates a commitment to bringing new hope and new life to victims of torture, and sends the message that the United States will not condone the use of torture." The Act authorizes a total of $81 million over two years in assistance to domestic and foreign torture treatment centers and in contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) introduced the bill in the Senate; Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) was the original cosponsor. The bill was introduced in the House by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). The Detained Torture Survivor Legal Support Network, coordinated by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), has reached over 700 survivors of torture held in immigration detention at five locations since the program began in January of 2002. Of the 200,000 immigrants detained annually by the DHS, an estimated 12,000 may be survivors of torture. The Detained Torture Survivor Legal Support Network makes a life-or-death difference by establishing a refuge of professional care in a hostile environment. The Network provides torture survivors with access to legal assistance, health care, psychological and religious counseling as well as arranging for torture survivors to receive extensive support services once they win their asylum cases and are released from detention. The network aims to take away the environmental threat and overcome the service limitations by removing the survivor as soon as possible from the traumatic environment and into one that can provide the vital services needed not merely to survive but to build a stable and fruitful life.

Meg Arenberg
for LIRS