Reagan, Members of Congress Voice Support for Soviet Jews
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Reagan, Members of Congress Voice Support for Soviet Jews

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President Reagan declared Thursday that Soviet citizens who have been denied exit visas will be the “unseen guests” at his summit meeting next week with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“I know that sitting next to me will be unseen guests — men and women whose only hope is that they are not forgotten here in the West,” Reagan said. He said they included Soviet Jews and other ethnic groups “who have applied to emigrate (and) have endured incredible hardships as a result.”

Reagan made his comments before the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews and other human rights groups at the White House for a pre-summit warmup. He later met with five divided spouses.

He told a joke about a Soviet dissident who complained that his sentence in a Siberian prison was too light. The dissident told the judge that “if America is so bad, why don’t you send me there.”

Reagan noted that human rights issues will be treated “on a par” with arms control and other issues at the summit. He recalled that the Soviets used to refuse to discuss human rights with U.S. officials, claiming that it was an internal matter.

Now, such topics are “accepted as integral components of our bilateral discussions,” the president said.

The president spoke a day after members of Congress spoke out strongly against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s comment that American support for emigration from the USSR is an attempt to create a “brain drain.”

Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.) termed as “nonsense” the Gorbachev claim made during an interview on NBC-TV Monday night.

Porter was among some 20 members of the House and Senate who spoke at the annual congressional fast and vigil for Soviet Jewry on the steps of the Capitol. He asserted that “the opening (glasnost) that started six or seven or eight months ago is closing down,” culminating with Gorbachev’s dismissal of a high party official who said Soviet reforms were moving too slowly.

Close to 200 lawmakers either fasted, participated in the vigil or spoke this week on the House and Senate floors in support of Soviet Jewry, said Rep. Robert Mrazek (D-N.Y). The members of Congress at the vigil were joined by Soviet Jews seeking reunification with immediate family left behind.

Rep. James Scheuer (D-N.Y.) said he found it “depressing” that Gorbachev would imply that many Soviet Jews did not really want to leave and that they were being organized by the United States to create a brain drain.

Scheuer also termed as “baloney” the “state secrets” basis reiterated by Gorbachev in his NBC interview. He called it “further evidence of the unrelenting rigidity of the Soviet Union.”

Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) said “we think we have leaks in this country. But to have 400,000 people wanting to get out (of the Soviet Union) — all of whom have classified information — is a bit unbelievable.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) sponsored a news conference with five refusenik family members that focused on the need for parents of Soviet emigrants who have not yet obtained visas to receive medical treatment abroad. Anna Charny plead for the release of her father, Benjamin, who has cancer.

Galina Khatutskay spoke about her father, Yuri, who may have a brain tumor or aneurysm, and Irina Dashevsky cited her father, Vladimir, who is suffering from heart disease.

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