Washington, D.C., July 3, 2003 - The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), a registered non-partisan political action committee, opened its doors today with a web launch at www.iranianamericanpac.org. IAPAC was established to raise funds from the Iranian American community to support candidates for political office who have shown a commitment to our community's domestic concerns and issues. The goal of IAPAC is to ensure that Iranian Americans have an influential voice and presence in the American electoral and legislative process.
Iranian Americans are distinct from other immigrant groups. According to the census Bureau, 92% of Iranian Americans have a mortgage, 84% speak English fluently, 46% have a bachelors degree or higher, 22% own their own business, 48% are dual income earners, 43% are in professional or managerial positions. The median income is $55,501, significantly above the national average. In addition, 26% have graduate degrees, making Iranian-Americans the best-educated ethnicity in the United States. Iranian American accomplishments have been both significant and numerous. Iranian Americans have excelled in law, medicine, telecommunications, manufacturing, education, art, media and sports. There is much to be proud of. However, there is one area in which Iranian American achievement is lacking - that is the political arena.
Like many other immigrant groups, Iranian Americans have kept a low profile in the U.S. since their arrival. They have focused on establishing their lives and supporting their families. However, after the September 11th attacks against our nation, many Iranian Americans felt a sense of vulnerability concerning their status and position in U.S. society. This sense of vulnerability was coupled with the growing anxiety that recent legislative developments such as the Enhanced Border Security & Visa Entry Reform Act impose an unfair and unreasonable burden on Iranian Americans.
Section 306 of the act contemplates a ban on the issuance of all non-immigrant visas to residents or nationals of the seven countries that appear on the Department of State's list of state sponsors of international terrorism - Iran, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan and North Korea. The legislation has given rise to concerns that matters such as family visitation and emergency medical care for loved ones may become extremely difficult, notwithstanding the fact that none of the 9/11 terrorists were of Iranian descent and that it was the Iranian people themselves who poured out into the streets of Tehran in a show of support for the United States and against the goals and concept of terrorism. The law increases the probability that people who are totally innocent will, by virtue of their nationality, be subject to unnecessary screening procedures and may be improperly barred from entering into the United States.
Furthermore, Iranian Americans were astonished to learn that Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, a state where Iranian Americans have recorded tremendous achievements and successes, was one of the original sponsors of the legislation. Many began to question how it is possible that the legislation was produced by a Senator who needs to be cognizant of, and take into account the political strength and wealth of this incredibly successful ethnic group of individuals.
The reason was painfully obvious. We as a community and as individuals have done nothing to educate Senator Feinstein and others in the U.S. Congress of the consequences of such legislation and its negative impact on Americans of Iranian descent.
How can we change the situation? We can begin by explaining the unfairness and short sightedness of the legislation itself. Secondly, we could begin to recognize the importance of our strength in the form of votes and thirdly, by financially supporting candidates running for political office. .
The reality of the American political system is that it is dependent on financial contributions. With the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act covering campaign contributions, the importance of Political Action Committees (PACs) and ethnic groups such as the Iranian American community becomes ironically significantly enhanced. PACs are playing an ever increasing and significant role in the American electoral system because they allow communities to pool their resources for maximum impact. A PAC may contribute a maximum of $5,000 per-election to a candidate running for federal office, while individuals are allowed to contribute a maximum of $2,000 to a candidate. In addition, the aggregate limit individuals may contribute to candidates running for public office is $37,500 per two-year election cycle. PACs have no aggregate limits and are entitled to contribute to as many candidates as they wish. According to the FEC, PACs contributed $220 million to federal candidates in the 1997-1998-election cycle.
The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform law will not be the last measure, which is excessively unsympathetic to our community. In fact, there is support within the U.S. Congress to pass a blanket prohibition of nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to Iranians and other citizens who are unjustly caught up in our nation's war against terrorism. It seems inevitable that these and other types of legislation will continue to be proposed by our legislators until we as a community begin to properly voice our concerns and actively participate in the legislative process.
IAPAC was created with the specific goal of ensuring that Iranian Americans have a presence in the American electoral and legislative process. Simply put, our Mission is to promote the election of candidates for federal, state and local office, regardless of party affiliation who are attuned to the domestic needs and issues of the Iranian American community. The mission of IAPAC also includes encouraging and supporting Iranian Americans to actively participate in the electoral process and to run for political office.
It is our hope that our community's success story will be fulfilled when we see Iranian Americans serving their nation proudly in the U.S. Congress, in the Judiciary of the United States and in the Executive Branch of the United States. By actively engaging ourselves in the American electoral process, we as a community can begin to define our own image in our adopted homeland, benefit our community and benefit America as a whole.
For more information, please visit www.iranianamericanpac.org, email IAPAC at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Iranian American Political Action Committee is a registered federal political committee that contributes to candidates for federal office. Contributions are not tax-deductible as charitable deductions for federal tax purposes.