WASHINGTON (Sep. 7)
The Bush administration reportedly has dropped a proposal to temporarily restrict Soviet immigration to those with family ties to the United States.
An estimated 50 to 60 percent of Soviet Jews applying to enter the United States would have been barred by this proposal, which was to be put into effect during the first six months of the 1990 fiscal year, according to David Harris, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee.
The 1990 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
News that the administration had dropped the proposal was confirmed by Mark Talisman, Washington representative of the Council of Jewish Federations.
The Bush administration denied Thursday that it was considering a change in policy that would make some Soviet Jews ineligible for immigration to the United States.
The State Department issued a statement to that effect, in response to reports Sunday in The New York Times and Thursday in The Washington Post that the United States would give refugee status only to those who have immediate relatives in the United States.
But department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler also acknowledged Thursday that the administration has not completed work on a new proposal to handle the explosion of Jews and others leaving the Soviet Union.
Tutwiler read a statement reaffirming the U.S. policy to assist the immigration of Jews and other Soviets, but leaving unclear whether the administration plans to limit the number of Jews and others entering the country as refugees.
PRIORITY FOR FAMILY REUNIFICATION
She would only goes as far as to say that the administration intends to give priority as refugees to those with families already in the United States, whether they came from the Soviet Union or other parts of the world.
“We wish to ensure that our limited refugee program numbers and funding are apportioned fairly among all worldwide applicants. Regardless of the higher number, family reunification cases will continue to be a matter of highest priority,” she said in the prepared statement.
“The administration is definitely not proposing to bar Soviet Jews from immigrating to the United States,” Tutwiler stressed. “We are not proposing rules to make any Soviet Jews ineligible.
“On the contrary, the administration is seeking ways to expand Soviet emigration to the United States. We are seeking ways to fairly and equitably respond to the explosion in demand because of our successful efforts in pressing the Soviets to open emigration,” she said.
Tutwiler pointed out that Soviet applications to enter the United States have risen from some 787 in 1986 to an expected 100,000 in the current fiscal year, half of whom are Jews. She said the figure for the 1990 fiscal year could reach 250,000.
Meanwhile, President Bush was urged Thursday by House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) to allow 100,000 Eastern, Europeans to enter the United States as refugees in 1990.
In a letter also signed by Rep. William Lipinski (D-III.), the lawmakers asked Bush to create a 12-month refugee category “for those who have fled communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.”
The lawmakers were joined at a news conference by Ron Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who said he was there to make U.S. refugee policy part of the Democratic Party’s agenda.
Each year, the administration allows a certain number of refugees from around the would to enter the United States on an emergency basis. The U.S. government spends an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 per refugee for processing, transportation and initial resettlement costs, including health services provided by state governments.
The U.S. worldwide refugee quota in 1989 was 116,500 people, including 43,500 from the Soviet Union.
The administration is expected to disclose the refugee ceiling for the 1990 fiscal year by the end of September, when, as required under the Refugee Act of 1980, it consults with Congress.
Tutwiler indicated Thursday that the administration will ask for a larger number of refugee slots, but did not indicate any figure.