NEW YORK (Oct. 3)
The American Jewish Committee has expressed concern over Administration proposals to limit refugees to be admitted to the U.S. in the coming year, particularly a proposed reduction in admissions from Eastern Europe. The AJC said such an action “would signal to the Soviet bloc that the U.S. has diminished its commitment to refugees from that part of the world.”
Howard Friedman, AJC president, said “The leadership position the U.S. has assumed in worldwide refugee affairs” is being threatened by “a reduction in refugee flow and by uncertainties about the commitment of the U.S. to reach its annual goals.”
He stressed that the most serious problem has been the trend to view numbers set for refugee admissions as ceilings that need not be met rather than as “realistic expectations.”
Friedman pointed to Administration consultations with Congress that have set a refugee admissions ceiling of 90,000 for 1983 when only a maximum of 60,000 will actually arrive. “This practice of establishing ceilings we have no intention of meeting both perverts the intent of the Refugee Act of 1980 and makes planning for receiving refugees impossible to carry out efficiently,” Friedman said.
CITES DROP IN NUMBER OF REFUGEES
He recalled the trend of refugee admissions of the past few years, stating that the number had dropped steadily from more than 200,000 in 1980 to 140,000 in 1982, 90,000 in 1983, and a proposed 72,000 for the next fiscal year. He added:
“While we cannot admit an unlimited number of refugees each year, the annual flow should reflect actual needs for refuge around the world and the capacity of the U.S. to resettle newcomers. Concern has now arisen that the downward trend in admissions numbers has developed a momentum of its own so that our government is now responding more to pressures to reduce arrivals than to a real assessment of the needs.”
Friedman added the AJC concern over “the lack of public input into the consultation process,” alleging that proposed admissions numbers were not made public in 1983 until late in the discussions, and that “little effort” was made to explore the positions of groups interested in the issue. “Refugee affairs touch concerns basic to the humanitarian and social goals of the United States; discussion on them should be as broad as possible,” Friedman said.
With refugee crises continuing in many parts of the world, Friedman stated, “the desire by so many who face oppression to come here and make new and better lives is the greatest compliment possible to the kind of society we have.”
The U.S. “must maintain its leadership in this field,” he concluded, urging that “the outcome of the current consultations that the Administration is having with Congress must reflect this commitment.”