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Risch, Menendez, Shaheen, Hagerty Applaud SFRC Approval of Americans Wrongfully or Unlawfully Detained Abroad Act of 2023

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today were joined by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) in releasing the below statements on the committee passage of their Supporting Americans Wrongfully or Unlawfully Detained Abroad Act of 2023, bipartisan legislation to bolster support for families advocating for the release of their loved ones wrongfully or unlawfully detained abroad.

“As hostage diplomacy resurges globally, we must utilize every tool at our disposal to bring wrongfully-detained Americans home,” said Ranking Member Risch. “Today, the committee took an important step to ensure the families of Americans held hostage abroad feel supported. I hope the full Senate will vote on this legislation soon.”

“Today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval of our Supporting Americans Wrongfully or Unlawfully Detained Abroad Act of 2023 is a crucial step forward as we seek to alleviate families’ personal financial burden while they advocate for their loved ones’ freedom,” said Chairman Menendez. “As more and more countries employ hostage diplomacy, we must do everything we can to ensure that families of Americans wrongfully detained abroad are supported and empowered in their advocacy. I look forward to working with my colleagues to secure our bill’s passage as it moves next to the Floor for consideration by the full Senate.”

“Any time an American is wrongfully detained abroad it is incumbent upon the United States to do everything in our power to bring them home to their loved ones. I am proud to partner with Senator Menendez, Senator Risch, and Senator Hagerty to ensure that this bipartisan legislation gives families the critical travel assistance they need at such a difficult time. Today our effort cleared an important committee hurdle—I urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to help us get this over the finish line in the Senate," said Senator Shaheen.

“I’m pleased to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill supporting families of Americans unlawfully detained abroad and see it advance to the Senate floor,” said Senator Hagerty. “If enacted, this bill will ensure that the families of Americans like Matthew Heath – a Tennessean who was wrongfully detained by the Maduro regime in Venezuela for over two years until his release late last year – receive the support they need.”

In addition to authorizing the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department to cover the costs of travel to Washington, D.C. for family members of Americans who are wrongfully or unlawfully detained abroad, the legislation also encourages the Department to make available mental health support for detainees and their families.

Full text of the legislation can be found here.