National Security

Cotton Introduces Legislation Sanctioning Iranians Who Hold American Hostages

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) / Getty

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) introduced the Iran Hostage Act on Thursday, which would sanction Iranian officials responsible for holding American hostages.

"Anyone who takes an American hostage has no right to come to the United States and enjoy its freedoms. Until the Iranian regime respects Americans’ basic human rights, they and their relatives will not be welcome in this country," Cotton said in a statement.

It also bars relatives of any officials responsible for holding American hostages from traveling to the U.S.

The legislation does the following, according to a news release:

  • Expresses a sense of Congress that the U.S. government should use all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent Iran from taking U.S. persons hostages.
  • Declares that the U.S. government does not pay ransom for U.S. hostages.
  • Imposes visa, property, and financial sanctions on Iranian officials responsible for the "politically-motivated harassment, abuse, extortion, arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing, or imprisonment of citizens of the United States or lawful permanent residents with significant ties to the United States."
  • Gives the President the authority to declare family members of these Iranian officials inadmissible to the United States and revoke these individuals’ existing U.S. visas.
  • Sanctions terminate 30 days after the President declares that Iran no longer holds U.S. citizens or LPRs hostage.

Companion legislation introduced in the House of Representatives in January by Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), called the "Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act," passed 410-2.

Cotton is a vocal opponent of the theocratic Iranian government and has said the Trump administration should seek regime change. He supported popular protests against the "hateful" ayatollahs and also spoke out strongly against the Iran nuclear deal.