WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
President Bush will likely be urged by both houses of Congress early next week to begin “emergency consultations with Congress” to increase U.S. refugee quotas.
A draft of a House letter that had 41 signatures Thursday afternoon criticizes the lame-duck Reagan administration’s January reallocation of thousands of refugee visas from Southeast Asia to the Soviet Union.
It calls that reallocation “both unwise and unnecessary,” and urges “immediate emergency consultations with Congress to increase the worldwide ceiling of refugees.”
The letter to Bush was initiated by Reps. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) and five others.
A second letter, to be mailed early next week to Secretary of State James Baker III and Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, was initiated by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) and Alan Dixon (D-Ill.).
A draft of that letter, which had 24 signatures Thursday morning, expresses concern that “as of the end of January, over 500 Soviet Jews have been denied refugee status in Rome.”
It says that the denials depart “from the longstanding U.S. practice of considering all Soviet Jews to be refugees.”
A second concern stated in the letter is that “Soviet emigres seeking visas in Moscow have been told to expect delays of a year or more in processing their applications.”
Because of such delays, the senators worry that the U.S. government will replace the Soviet government “as the obstacle to departure.”
The 24 senators are calling for an emergency meeting “for dealing with unexpected increases in the refugee population.” This is based on the consultation procedure specified in the Refugee Act of 1980.
They note that the private sector — an apparent reference to the United Jewish Appeal — is “preparing a major campaign to raise additional private funds to supplement its annual fund-raising efforts.” That annual effort “raises millions for the resettlement of Soviet Jews in this country,” they said.
The senators also call on the Immigration and Naturalization Service to consider all soviet Jews as refugees and to place additional Russian-speaking officials in Rome.
The letter-writing campaign was announced as the National Conference on Soviet Jewry held its annual Capitol Hill Action Day on Thursday.
The day before, NCSJ’s board of governors announced that it might soon adopt a new policy on trade concessions to the Soviet Union, if present levels of emigration continue.