Congressman Carnahan Visits BAACBH

On 7 December 2006, members of the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BAACBH) met with Congressman Russ Carnahan, a Democrat from Missouri, at their offices in Washington, D.C. About 50,000 Bosnians live in Congressman Carnahan’s 3rd district, the majority of them refugees who came to the United States as a result of the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s.

At the start of the meeting, BAACBH members congratulated Congressman Carnahan on his recent re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives for a second term. They then provided an update about BAACBH’s work since the organization’s launch earlier this year, as well as current and planned initiatives. Congressman Carnahan in turn expressed his pleasure at the opportunity to meet with BAACBH, and described some of his experiences with the Bosnian community in St. Louis. He said that St. Louis Bosnians are very good, hardworking and loyal residents of St. Louis, who are close to their community and who have made a significant contribution to the city’s development. Congressman Carnahan also described some of the challenges that members of the Bosnian community living in his district face. For example, about 50 Bosnians recently filed a complaint against the U.S. Immigration Service for lack of feedback from this department regarding their immigration applications. Congressman Carnahan said that he completely understood why these Bosnians had undertaken such a measure.

As we have mentioned for quite some time now, one of the biggest initiatives of the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina is the creation of a Bosnian Caucus in the U.S. Congress. In general, all ethnic communities from countries in the Balkans – except Bosnia and Herzegovina – have such a caucus. In order for a congressional caucus to be formed, two congressmen – one Democrat and one Republican – must agree to be the sponsors of the caucus, following which other congressional representatives would join as members. In this vein, given the large population of Bosnian-Herzegovinians in his district, BAACBH had recently asked Congressman Carnahan to be the Democratic sponsor of the Congressional Bosnian Caucus. Congressman Carnahan was supportive of this initiative and agreed to be one of the two sponsors. BAACBH is currently seeking an appropriate Republican congressman to be the other sponsor.

In addition, BAACBH members proposed to Congressman Carnahan that his office hire an individual from the Bosnian community in order to improve communication with this community, and also, for the Congressman to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina sometime in the near future. The Congressman liked both suggestions, and particularly the second. A potential date for this visit is 11 July 2007, the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. (Congressman Carnahan was one of the 40 co-sponsors of the Congressional Resolution on Srebrenica, which last year unanimously passed in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.)

At the end of the meeting, the hosts thanked Congressman Carnahan for his office’s to-date cooperation and for his visit to the BAACBH office. As a gift from BAACBH, Tarik Bilalbegovic, Vice President of BAACBH, gave Congressman Carnahan the book “A Centennial of Bosniaks in America.”