WASHINGTON (May. 25)
The House of Representatives approved a $3.7 billion supplemental spending bill Wednesday containing $75 million to admit an estimated 18,500 additional Soviet refugees to the United States this fiscal year.
The Senate will not act on the bill until after it returns from the Memorial Day recess.
On a parallel front, key lawmakers are expected to formally notify President Bush within a week that they approve an administration plan to raise the Soviet refugee quota by 18,500 for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, a Senate source said.
The lawmakers, who are the chairmen and ranking Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary subcommittees on immigration, met on May 17 with Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who formally notified them of the administration’s intention to raise the refugee ceiling.
The congressional and administration moves are an attempt to respond to the hugh influx of Soviet Jews seeking to enter the United States.
More than 40,000 are expected to emigrate from the Soviet Union this year, and there is already a backlog of several thousand waiting in Italy for permission to enter the United States.
The U.S. quota of Soviet refugees for this fiscal year has already been exceeded. As a result, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee last month accepted a longstanding administration offer to admit an additional 5,000 refugees with only partial U.S. funding.
Under the agreement, HIAS and the JDC are paying the costs of refugee processing, transportation and initial resettlement, costs normally absorbed by the State Department, said Phillip Saperia, HIAS assistant executive vice president.
Saperia said HIAS has used about 2,500 of the refugee slots, with the other 2,500 to be used by mid-June. He said HIAS hopes to be reimbursed if and when the supplemental spending bill passes.