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Maryland Members Discuss Range of Issues with Senator Sarbanes

Washington, DC - The National Iranian American Council held its fifth Congressional Breakfast Series meeting with Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland on Wednesday, July 7th. The five-term Maryland senator commended NIAC for arranging the meeting and was sympathetic to the issues concerning the Iranian-American community. The Senator expressed particular concern about whether discrimination was affecting young Iranian Americans.

A constituent concerned about the negative effects of the Patriot Act on civil liberties opened the discussion. Another gave the Senator an account of a questionable police raid conducted under the parameters of the Act. One NIAC member, who has two children pursuing Masters degrees at American universities, expressed concerns about the increasing difficulty for Iranian students to obtain visas to study in the US.

Business issues also dominated the discussion. An Iranian-American businessman addressed the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program granting disenfranchised minority groups special consideration and government benefits, and asked for the Senator’s support for NIAC’s bid to include Iranian Americans in the program.

Another businessman discussed the impending loss of HUBzone status for the Silver Spring area. The HUBzone Empowerment Contracting program provides federal contracting opportunities for qualified small businesses located in distressed areas such as Silver Spring. “As we succeed in Silver Spring, we lose some of the special categories,” the Senator said, promising to look into the issue. “We’ve had terrific success in Silver Spring. Sometimes success works against you.”

One constituent was concerned about the state of traffic in Maryland. He discussed the “511” initiative in the state of Maryland, which would give people the ability to access information on traffic, road conditions and public transportation by dialing 5-1-1 from any phone, and told the Senator how his company has tried unsuccessfully to get the state to accept its bids for the project.

Sarbanes told his constituents how his parents immigrated to the US from Greece, and how he has always felt that the strength of the nation derives from the immigrant population.

The Senator asked NIAC members to stay in touch with his office about the issues discussed at the meeting. “Get drawn into ordinary political activity at the local, state, and federal level,” he responded when asked how Iranian Americans could become more politically active.

NIAC’s Congressional Series will continue with other meetings with members of Congress and will be publicized on the NIAC webpage. These meetings are open to NIAC members only.


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