WASHINGTON (Mar. 2)
A bill to double the number of refugee slots for Soviet emigrants to 50,000 was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert Kasten (R-Wis.).
“A refugee emergency has now developed in the flow of Jewish refugees and others from the Soviet Union,” the two senators said in a statement.
By the end of this month, the flow of Soviet emigrants is expected to reach the ceiling of 25,000 set for refugees from the Soviet Union for the 1989 fiscal year, which began last Oct. l, Kennedy and Kasten said.
The refugee ceiling had actually been increased from 18,000 by President Reagan before leaving office in January by taking quotas that were expected not to be used by refugees from Southeast Asia.
The bill provides an extra $150 million to pay for the processing and resettlement of the additional refugees.
The funds are to be taken from the $665 million appropriated for states absorbing a large number of refugees. Kennedy and Kasten said that it is expected that only $70 million of these funds will actually be used by the states in the 1989 fiscal year.
In a letter urging support for the bill, Kennedy and Kasten warned, “If funds are not found by April, refugees will be turned back, left to languish in Rome at great cost in care and maintenance, and the voluntary agencies involved in the program will be forced to close down.”
The senators stressed that their proposed legislation is only a stopgap measure. “Clearly, longer-term solutions must be found to deal with Soviet migration,” they said. “But if we do not respond now to this emergency, we will be turning our back to our longstanding commitment to assist Soviet refugees.”