Bengaluru: As the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is now sub-judice, with the apex court hearing the matter, the protests against it continue, chiefly at Shaheen Bagh, near New Delhi. 

The principal opposition to the Act, as its detractors point out, is that the CAA discriminates against Muslims from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But on the contrary, the Modi government has pointed out that Muslims in these three countries can’t be persecuted on a religious basis. 

The cries for a rollback of the CAA have reached a crescendo. But at this crucial juncture, and as the court scrutinises the Act with the eyes of a hawk, let’s also look at another Citizenship Amendment which was passed in the United States and which, evidently bases itself on positive discrimination, with religion as the yardstick. 

Lautenberg Specter Amendment

Enacted in the year 1989-90, a US Senator Frank Lautenberg was the architect of this Act. It gave refugee status and eventually citizenship to a set of minorities from three countries. 
This was conceived to accommodate persecuted minorities in the former Soviet Union. But later, in the year 2004, minorities from Iran were also given the green signal, through the Specter Amendment. 

As per the features of the Amendment, persecuted religious minorities also include Jews and Christians who can jump the queue to obtain American citizenship. 

Using the same “reasonable classification” or what we call “intelligible differentia” the Act keeps the majority Muslim population out of the framework. 

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that chose to chastise the Modi government over CAA has itself championed the Lautenberg-Specter Amendment. 

It is interesting to note that in February 2018, USCIRF, concerned over the denial of protection to the ‘Lautenberg-Specter’ refugees that it remarked, “These refugees (Jews, Christians, Baha’is) face the imminent danger of return to Iran, where the already dire situation for religious minorities is steadily deteriorating.’’

Another interesting thing to note is that the Amendment needs to be renewed every year.