WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former U.S Ambassador to Japan, today joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID), along with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), in introducing the 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.
The Supporting Americans Wrongfully or Unlawfully Detained Abroad Act of 2023 authorizes 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 provides that the Department make available mental health support for detainees and their families.
“As a Senator and former U.S. ambassador, I’ve dealt with and seen far too many cases of Tennesseans and other American citizens wrongly or unlawfully detained abroad,” said Senator Hagerty. “That’s why I’m proud to co-sponsor this bipartisan bill to better support and lessen the burdens of American families who are working with the U.S. government to bring home their loved ones in these heartbreaking cases.”
“I am proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing the Supporting Americans Wrongfully or Unlawfully Detained Abroad Act of 2023,crucial bipartisan legislation to ensure that families of unlawfully detained Americans are able to advocate for their loved ones’ freedom without personal financial burden,” said Senator Menendez. “This bill is a critical show of support for families suffering from an unimaginable nightmare. We need to do everything possible to ensure that families of Americans wrongfully detained abroad are empowered advocate for the return of their loved ones. I look forward to working with my colleagues to secure this bill’s passage, as well as working to deter future hostage-taking.”
“With the resurgence of hostage diplomacy globally, it is vital that we provide families affected with the resources needed to advocate for their loved ones,” said Senator Risch. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure every family feels supported and that we utilize every tool at our disposal to bring wrongfully-detained Americans home.”
In September 2020, Tennessean Matthew Heath was wrongfully detained in Venezuela. For two years, Heath was subjected to unfair and barbaric treatment, including torture, by the Maduro regime. Hagerty, as a United States Senator of Tennessee, advocated for Heath’s release, including elevation of his case to the U.S. government’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA), until Heath was returned to the United States in October 2022.
Full text of the legislation can be found here.