Lawmakers Launch Task Force to Aid Overseas Hostages

Lawmakers Launch Task Force to Aid Overseas Hostages

( – For 444 days between November 4, 1979, and January 21, 1981 — perhaps not so coincidentally ending the day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States — American citizens waited for news of the fate of 52 of their own being held hostage in Iran. Jump forward 40 years, and nothing so captivating is grabbing the headlines, but many families anxiously await similar updates about loved ones in captivity overseas.

How Many and Where

The James W Foley Legacy Foundation (JWFLF) proudly display on their landing page that they “Advocate for the Freedom of All Americans Held Hostage or Wrongfully Detained Abroad.” According to their figures, there are at least 53 publicly disclosed cases of people wrongfully in custody in foreign countries.

Many detainees are being held in Islamic nations such as Egypt, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. But, China and Russia also hold American prisoners. The JWFLF includes U.S. Nationals and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) in its data.

A Glimmer of Hope

During the recent summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders discussed the imprisonment of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, with Biden mentioning “the families of the detained Americans I have hope for.” Coming on the heels of that meeting, a bipartisan group in Congress has announced the formation of a panel to examine the wrongful detention of Americans around the world.

The Task Force

Representatives French Hill (R-AR) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) are two leaders of this endeavor and are making their stand for families with connections in their respective home states. For Representative Hill, that person is Majd Kamalmaz, a psychologist originally from Syria. When he traveled to Damascus to treat refugees in February 2017, he was imprisoned, and he is still being held to this day.

Representative Deutch was standing up for Florida resident Bob Levinson, an FBI agent taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran in March 2007. Tragically, he never saw his family again; 13 years later, he was presumed dead. To honor him, bipartisan legislation that bears his name was signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2020. The legislation provides money and resources to bring those in custody abroad back home.

The United States of America is still the freest country globally, and some countries and organizations resent American liberty and prosperity. Unfortunately, Americans can become valuable hostages and targets. This new task force should hopefully go some way toward addressing this problem.

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