WASHINGTON (Oct. 17)
President Bush has authorized the admission of 50,000 Soviet emigres to the United States as refugees during the new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
Of that total, 40,000 are expected to be Soviet Jews. All of them will receive federal assistance covering transportation and initial resettlement costs.
By contrast, in the last fiscal year, 10,000 of the 50,000 “refugee slots” were not funded by the U.S. government. As a result, private Jewish groups had to provide complete funding for the transmigration of 8,000 Soviet Jews.
U.S. Jewish groups sought and obtained full funding for those costs during the 1991 fiscal year. But they did not seek an increase in the 50,000 Soviet refugee quota, so as not to divert to the United States emigres who might otherwise settle in Israel.
The Jewish groups also did not want to jeopardize the current level of refugee admissions from other countries by requesting an increase in the Soviet quota.
Overall, Bush increased from 125,000 to 131,000 the number of refugees who will be admitted worldwide this fiscal year. They are granted entry if they demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution.”
Officials at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which helps Soviet Jews seeking entry to the United States, said the U.S. refugee processing system implemented in the Soviet Union this past year is working well in that about 95 percent of Soviet Jews seeking refugee status have been granted it so far in 1990.
But HIAS officials also note that hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews would like to immigrate to the United States, but cannot for the foreseeable future because of the 50,000 ceiling.
20,000 ALREADY INTERVIEWED
Of the 40,000 Soviet Jews to enter the United States during the 1991 fiscal year, nearly 20,000 already have been interviewed by the Justice Department’s Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Priority is being given to those with immediate family in the United States, said Deborah Mark, special assistant to the executive director of HIAS, Karl Zukerman.
Soviet Jewish families already in the United States cannot expect aunts and uncles to be able to immigrate here for at least two to three years, Mark said.
But to facilitate the process, Soviet families here should pay in advance for their relatives’ airplane tickets, because there is a shortage of tickets available in rubles, the Soviet currency, Mark explained.
Another benefit to buying tickets here is that there is a 25 percent discount offered by airlines for tickets purchased in dollars.
By prepaying tickets, families also will not have to take out U.S. government loans to pay for transportation, which would theoretically free up U.S. refugee funds that could be spent on resettling them, Mark said.
Zukerman said HIAS is not seeking to open an office in the Soviet Union and will rely on contacts with U.S. immigration officials, staff visits and telephone hook-ups to Soviet Jews.