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The Committee on the Judiciary has now consulted with your representatives on refugee admissions for fiscal year 1991.
As Ranking Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Immigration and Refugee Affairs Subcommittee, we submit to you our response to the proposed admissions level, together with our views and recommendations regarding the U.S. refugee program.
First we support your commitment to our country's leading role in aiding those who suffer persecution and who are of special humanitarian concern to this country. We are proud of our nation's tradition and your leadership in refugee assistance and resettlement: We have resettled more refugees than all other countries of the world combined, and we can be very proud of that demonstration of commitment and compassion by the United States.
However, we have an ever growing concern about the upward trend in refugee admissions we have witnessed over the last five years.
We assert that the preferred durable solution to the refugee problem is repatriation to the homeland, and if that is not possible, then resettlement in the country of first asylum is the next best solution. But our admissions policy has demonstrated that the least preferred durable solution -- third country resettlement has apparently now become our basic approach to refugee resettlement, particularly in Southeast Asia.
Further, it is surely troubling that we are accepting a growing number of refugees from within the country of their nationality, a clear violation of the spirit of the Refugee Act of 1980. What was intended to be an exception for certain exceptional situations seems now to have become the rule in recent years.
Another aspect of our refugee policy is most troubling to us and it is of particular concern to our state and local governments. We are referring to the Administration's decision in each of the last two years to propose an admissions number
which exceeds that which can be supported with the available resettlement funding. We should not plan to admit refugees for which we do not have the money to pay for resettlement.
As in previous years, we again express our concern that the United States seems to be adopting a policy which reduces our traditional commitment to provide our fair share of humanitarian assistance to refugees in camps abroad, as we increase the proportion of refugee assistance funding spent on resettling refugees in the United States,
While we share your belief that the United States must, and is certainly able to, provide resettlement opportunities to those refugees of special humanitarian concern whose lives or freedom are in danger, we observe that only a small percentage of the refugees we admit actually meet that criteria. Rather, those who are admitted more often come here simply because they have relatives in the United States. While we all agree on the importance of family reunification, we believe that in many cases the immigration track is the more appropriate way to receive these persons into the United States.
We would also remind you of the Congressional view expressed in the Refugee Act of 1980 that the “normal flow" of refugees to the United States would be 50,000 persons annually. While the Refugee Act made clear that the number can be exceeded provided there is consultation with the Congress, we clearly did not contemplate -- absent extraordinary circumstances that admissions far in excess of that figure would become the usual established practice.
It is because of these concerns that we asked your representatives, at the recent hearing on the proposed 1991 admissions, to furnish us with more information about the process used to select the refugees to be admitted under the annual ceilings. We are also interested in knowing how the proposed admissions number is determined, what percentage of these refugees are persons whose life or freedom is actually in danger, how many of these "refugees" could be admitted under our immigration laws, and how the requirement of "special humanitarian concern" to the United States is actually ascertained.
While we will not oppose the number of refugee admissions you request for fiscal year 1991, we do want to share with you our growing concern about the direction of our refugee program. We look forward to the response of the Bureau of Refugee Programs and the Coordinator's office to the questions raised above.
Again, we do appreciate your support of a generous refugee program. We want to join with you in responding to the urgent
needs of true refugees, including the needs of refugees in camps throughout the world as well as the resettlement of those who have no other option and are truly of special humanitarian concern to the United States.
UNITED STATES COORDINATOR
FOR REFUGEE AFFAIRS
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20520
September 27, 1990
Dear Mr. Chairman:
During our recent consultations on the refugee admissions program for FY 1991 you asked that we submit for the record an explanation of how we would manage funding for a total program of 121,000 admissions within the President's proposed budget of $185.22 million. The following summary should more clearly outline our plans and intentions.
As you are aware, the President's budget submission for FY 1991 envisions funding for 110,000 rečugee admissions, of which 40,000 would be Soviet. During the consultation process, it has become clear that both the Congress and the resettlement community feel that a private sector program of the magnitude undertaken in FY 1990 for Soviet refugees is simply not feasible.
As a consequence, the Administration decided to add 10,000 funded admissions to the Soviet program and explore a number of cost saving measures in the refugee admissions program to offset the extra cost to the Migration and Refugee Assistance account. Barring the eventuality of sequestration and/or overall federal budget cuts to reduce the deficit, we believe it will be possible to meet this goal and this is the Administration's intent.
The most promising and substantial cost savings appear to be in the area of refugee transportation loans. We are now offering a reduced airfare for Soviet refugees and their sponsors in the United States who are able to pre-pay in hard currency. We also expect several thousand Soviet refugees a year to continue purchasing ruble tickets, which, of course, is a net savings to the refugee program. If there is a positive response to o pre-payment offer, this measure alone has the potential for offsetting the additional cost of the extra 10,000 Soviet admissions.
We plan to introduce this transportation pre-payment offer in other areas, as well, most importantly Indochina. We are also exploring a number of other cost saving measures in the refugee admissions program as a whole.
Committee on the Judiciary,
United States Senate.
In short, it is our intention to meet a refugee admissions program of 121,000 funded refugees within the budget of $185.22 million that we have proposed for FY 1991. Our ability to make full use of these additional numbers will be dependent on (i) the appropriation of funds at the President's request level for FY 1991, (ii) successful participation of refugees and their sponsors in financing a portion of transportation to the United States, and (iii) the success of other cost saving measures.