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July 15, 1988 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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18

FRIDAY, JULY 15, 1988

visas.
Ben Zion Leuchter, presi-
dent of HIAS, said he believes
Soviet leaders will use the
suspension as an example of
the Reagan administration's
lack of commitment to its
human rights policy. "They
could say that U.S. leaders are
always moralizing about
human rights, but then they
had a budgetary problem that
was more important."
Leuchter further expressed
concern for the future of the
"two-track system," whereby
Soviet Jews wishing to settle
in Israel would apply for
Israeli visas while those seek-
ing to immigrate to the
United States would do so on
U.S. visas.
Last April, Soviet Jewish
organizations throughout the
United States signed a state-
ment supporting the two-
track plan. Now, Leuchter
said, he is concerned that
Soviet Jews will continue to
use Israeli visas to come to
the West because it will be
impossible to obtain U.S.
visas.
The vast majority of Soviet
Jews are opting to come to the
United States. Last year
alone, more than 75 percent of
the Soviet Jewish emigrants,
leaving on Israeli visas, re-
quested U.S. citizenship.
Israel attempted to address
this issue only last month,
when the Knesset announced
that it will no longer grant
visas to Soviet Jews who do
not plan to settle in Israel.
This Knesset move, coupled
with the State Department's
suspension on U.S. visas to
Soviet citizens, allows no
room for Soviet Jews who
wish to come to the West.
This contradicts the U.S. ad-
ministration's support of
allowing refugees to settle in
the country of their choice, ac-
cording to Pamela Cohen,
president of the Union of
Councils of Soviet Jews.
"The timing of this is very,
very bad:' she said.
Because the administration
is purporting that the suspen-
sion was necessary for finan-
cial reasons, the UCSJ hopes
to convince the State Depart-
ment to make use of a clause
of the Anti-Deficiency Law,
which provides for funding in
emergency situations.
"Our top priority must be to
help those people struggling
to get out of the Soviet
Union:' Cohen said. "That
they should have to suffer
anti-Semitism and have their
lives endangered and then
not be able to leave because of
restraints on the emigration
process is indefensible."
Several Soviet Jewry ac-
tivists expressed frustration
because, they said, the State

Department knew some time
ago that an increased number
of Soviet citizens would be
seeking refugee status in the
United States.
State Department officials
admitted as much, and said
they tried to deal with the
situation accordingly.
Sheppie Abramowitz of the
bureau of refugee programs
said the department agreed to
accept this year an additional
15,000 refugees from Eastern
Europe, mostly Soviet Jews
and Armenians.
This decision was approved
by President Reagan and the
Congress and funds were re-
quested to deal with the in-
crease. Yet only a small por-
tion of the monies could be
secured, Abramowitz said.
One Soviet Jewry activist

"Our top priority
must be to help
those people
struggling to get
out of the Soviet
Union."

completely rejected this
scenario. "What really hap-
pened is that the State
Department was pressured by
the Office of Management
and Budget," he said.
"Everybody knew there
would be all these refugees,
and the State Department
said they would find the
finances to handle it. Ob-
viously they didn't. And they
never requested more money
because OMB insisted they
wouldn't get it."
Abramowitz said that
bureau of refugee programs
does consult Jewish organiza-
tions, including HIAS, before
setting the ceiling on the
figure of refugees to be ac-
cepted each year.
"We're all aware of the
financial problem with the in-
creasing number of refugees
and we're trying to solve it,"
Abramowitz said.
In the meantime, Soviet
Jewry advocates find little
comfort in promises for the
future and explanations such
as, "this is just a bureaucratic
mix-up," which one activist
heard from a State Depart-
ment official.
"We are in danger of giving
the Soviet Union a wonderful
victory," HIAS' Leuchter said.
"And we ought to be using
every method we can and
every means we can to get
everybody out now while the
doors in the Soviet Union are
open."
"We feel very strongly
about this;' added Pamela
Cohen. "And we're not going
to quit until we win."

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