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March 31, 1989 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-03-31

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Groups Oppose Rise
In Rejected Refugees


• Creativity assumes vari-
ous forms. And in The
Jewish News' weekly
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field sculptors, from
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the-beaten path galle-
ries, we'll provide a
useful, concise pack-
age of information that
will stimulate your crea-
tive juices.

• To learn more about the
section or ways your
gallery can participate,
contact your Jewish
News account ex-
ecutive or News Editor
Heidi Press at 354-6060.


52 FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 1989

Washington (JTA) —
Representatives of four
Jewish groups recently met
with Immigration and
Naturalization Service Com-
missioner Alan Nelson to pro-
test a sharp increase this
month in the number of
Soviet Jews denied permis-
sion to enter the United
States as refugees.
The groups said the rate of
refusal had jumped to 40.5
percent in the first 14 days of
At the same time, the
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Socie-
ty, the principal group involv-
ed in assisting Soviet Jews to
enter the United States,
welcomed Secretary of State
James Baker's recent state-
ment that the Bush ad-
ministration will seek to in-
crease its Soviet refugee
quota this fiscal year from
19,000 to 43,500.
"It's probably about enough
for what we anticipate in the
flow this year" of Soviet Jews
to the United States, said
Karl Zukerman, HIAS ex-
ecutive vice president.
HIAS estimates that about
30,000 Soviet Jews will want
to enter the United States
this fiscal year, most of them
as refugees.
Refugee status is accorded
potential immigrants who
can prove "a well-founded fear
of persecution."
Prior to last September, the
U.S. government tended to
agree with HIAS that Soviet
Jews as a class inherently
face such fear. Since then,
INS officials have been more
selective, denying refugee
status to hundreds of Soviet
HIAS executive vice presi-
dent Karl Zukerman said
HIAS wants the INS to give
Soviet Jews a "presumption
of eligibility" for refugee
A total of 742 families were
denied refugee status in the
six-month period from Sept.
14 through March 14. Follow-
ing appeals, INS sustained 49
of the denials and overturned
55, according to HIAS
Philip Saperia, assistant ex-
ecutive vice president of
HIAS, said there was no
resolution of the issue at the
meeting with Nelson. The
Jewish groups argued that
the denial rate for Jews seem-
ed to be linked to the denial
rate for other ethnic and
religious groups, such as
Soviet Pentecostals.
HIAS believes the United
States began denying refugee
status to Soviet Jews because

of budgetary constraints,
Zukerman said. But Zuker-
man would not attribute the
current rise in the denial rate
to continuing U.S. budgetary
Also present at the meeting
with Nelson were Ben Zion
Leuchter, president of HIAS;
Mark Talisman, Washington
representative of the Council
of Jewish Federations; David
Harris, Washington represen-
tative of the American Jewish
Committee; and Mark Levin,
Washington representative of
the National Conference on
Soviet Jewry.
The same delegation met
with Attorney General Dick
Thornburgh on Jan. 25 to
complain about the refugee
status denials. On Feb. 10,
HIAS submitted a 100-page
brief to Thornburgh arguing
that INS "is misapplying the
appropriate standard in its
determinations of the refugee
status of Soviet Jews."
The Bush administration's
proposal that Congress raise
the ceiling on refugees will
include a request for a $100
million supplemental aid
package. Of this amount, $85
million would be used to ad-
mit 28,500 additional
refugees, 24,500 of whom
would be from the Soviet
Union, Secretary Baker said.
The other 4,000 slots would
be used to bring refugees to
the United States from
Southeast Asia and the Near
East. That would help com-
pensate for the State Depart-
ment's Jan. 11 decision to
transfer refugee slots from
those regions to Soviet
The other $15 million
would be used for U.N. inter-
national assistance programs
in Africa ($11.5 million) and
Southeast Asia ($3.5 million),
said Sheppy Abramowitz, the
State Department's
spokeswoman on refugee
On March 13, the Bush ad-
ministration proposed in-
creasing the refugee quota for
Soviet Jews, Armenians and
Pentecostals by 6,000 slots.
Under the plan, HIAS and
voluntary agencies helping
resettle Soviet Jews, Arme-
nians and Pentecostals have
to pay the State Department's
traditional share of the costs:
for transportation, processing
and initial resettlement.
HIAS' response to that offer
was, "No, Thank you," Zuker-
man said last week.
But Zukerman said that
HIAS may have to temporari-
ly use some the 6,000 slots if
the administration's proposal

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