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[From the San Francisco Chronicle, June 30, 1990]


(By Robert Kahn)

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS.-The training videotape of a State Department employee lecturing federal immigration workers on how to judge political asylum applications appears to support critics' charges that asylum decisions are influenced by U.S. foreign policy concerns.

The tape, obtained by human rights advocates and made available to a reporter, has angered those who work with undocumented immigrants and would-be American citizens.

In the tape, Mark McCleggen, of the State Department's Bureau of Human Rights, suggests that Immigration and Naturalization Service employees "go with" State Department policy rather than consider individual asylum claims on their merits.

He appears to make light of the fate of Salvadorans not granted asylum, saying "there is a running joke back at the Bureau (of Humans Rights)" about Salvadorans killed in that country's civil war.

The State Department acknowledges that McCleggen did go to Los Angeles to address an INS group in December, 1988. But David Burgess, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, was unaware of the tape's content. “We can't defend or deny" any thing on the videotape, Burgess said.

McCleggen no longer works for the State Department and attempts to locate him were unsuccessful.

Virginia Dice, INS spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said the tape was never used in training. She declined to comment on its content and referred questions to INS officials in Washington. Those officials did not return telephone calls.

The videotape was made as thousands of Central Americans were entering the United States each week in late 1988. To respond, the INS formed task forces in Los Angeles and south Texas to give quick asylum interviews and issue same-day decisions on political asylum claims. The process had formerly taken weeks or months. Employees of INS were given brief training sessions and then assigned to adjudicate asylum claims.


Under the 1980 Refugee Act, immigrants can be granted political asylum if they show a "well-founded fear of persecution" for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Refugee advocates say that INS uses a double standard in judging asylum claims: refusing asylum to people fleeing violence from U.S. allies such as El Salvador and Guatemala, and granting it to people fleeing lefist governments.


In the videotape, McCleggen says INS examiners "have to assume" that refugees "will adjust the truth or exaggerate" their claims of persecution. He noted that one asylum applicant claimed that his mother, brother and sister were killed in successive months but that "this person was denied."

"People are taken away by death squads," McCleggen explained, ". . . but it wouldn't happen within a matter of months. They would kill your mother on Monday and shoot your brother on Wednesday and come for you on Thursday.'

McCleggen said "the most popular" claim Salvadorans make for asylum is, "My cousin was killed by the guerrillas..." We have a running joke back at the Bureau (that) there are no cousins left in El Salvador."

Laredo immigration attorney Patrick Hughes said the comment shows "outrageous insensitivity to the suffering of the Salvadoran people." Hughes who worked with the Salvadoran Human Rights Commission documenting human rights abuses there in 1987-89, said, "To make a joke about the murder of 70,000 Salvadoran people shows the same insensitivity the U.S. Congress shows by funding the Salvadoran military, who commit the abuses."


Many statements on the tape allegedly violate U.S. law, said attorney Arthur Helton, director of the Refugee Project of the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

Helton said it seems that the INS was training its employees in "pre-judgment as opposed to adjudication. It was the invitation to pre-judgment that I think was most serious."

Duke Austin, the INS spokesman in Washington, has long denied that State Department policy or political factors influence INS asylum decisions.

However, when an INS trainee asked McCleggen what to do if refugees describe credible incidents of persecution by a government friendly to the United States, McCleggen's taped reply was: "Stick with the State Department response."

Dan Kesselbrenner, director of the National Lawyers Guild's Immigrants Rights Project in Boston, said the training session "violates the spirit of the law." "It presumes refugees are lying," Kesselbrenner said.


Senator KENNEDY. We again welcome our Deputy Secretary of State, Larry Eagleburger, representing the President on next year's program for the refugees. We are always glad to have Secretary Eagleburger. We may differ with different aspects of the policy, but I think all of us in the Senate find that Secretary Eagleburger is willing to hear us out on these matters. We value very much that quality as well as leadership that he provides in many different areas.

We welcome James Hall, the U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs; Ambassador Princeton Lyman, who is the Director of Bureau of Refugee Programs, Department of State. I see Commissioner McNary is here in the room as well. We want to welcome him back. We are glad to have him at the table. And we have Chris Gersten, Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Secretary.


Mr. EAGLEBURGER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I am here today to discuss the global refugee situation and to present the President's proposed refugee admissions levels for fiscal year 1991. I hope I can be brief.

I would like to begin with a discussion of trends in refugee affairs over the past year. I will then turn to some specific areas of concern, including the United States response to Soviet emigration, the comprehensive plan of action for Indochinese refugees, and the current situations in the Persian Gulf and Liberia. Finally, I will summarize the proposed admissions levels for refugees for the coming fiscal year.

The ideal solution for any refugee situation is that the conditions which caused the refugees to flee be brought to an end. The opportunity to reconstruct a life in one's homeland, with one's own lan

guage and culture, is a far more humane solution than to become an outsider in a foreign land. The enormous changes in world politics since we consulted in refugee concerns over a year ago have had a significant impact on the potential for voluntary repatriation of refugees.


The warming of relations between the superpowers has meant that many regional conflicts may be on the road to resolution. The progress in Afghanistan and Cambodia offers the possibility that refugees created by these conflicts may have the opportunity to return to their homes in the not too distant future.

There have also been major repatriation efforts over the past year in Central America for Salvadorans and Nicaraguans. While the pace of the returns is affected by the absorptive capacity of these countries, we are especially gratified that more than 30,000 Central Americans are now back in their home countries.

And in Africa, some 43,000 Namibians have returned home after long years of exile to help launch the world's newest independent state.


Another major political change since last year has been the spread of democracy and freedom of expression in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. While this, too, may lead to large repatriations, especially to East European nations, the rapid change in governments has also unleashed long-repressed ethnic tensions in those regions. The fear of ethnic strife plus a legacy of official persecution, particularly in the Soviet Union, has prompted many Jews, Evangelical Christians, and other religions and ethnic minorities there to seize the opportunity to emigrate. This has presented us with some major challenges in our resettlement program, to which I will refer in a moment.


For the majority of the world's 15 million refugees, however, repatriation is still not a viable option. Moreover, integration and acceptance by the country of asylum is available only to a limited number of these refugees. And resettlement to a third country is available to even fewer.

Many refugees who will not be resettled or repatriated have been in asylum for an extended period of time. They need food, water, shelter, the provision of sanitation facilities, and medical care. They also need international organizations to monitor their protection. As refugees wait for political and social conditions to enable them to return home, the international community must be prepared to provide the resources necessary to sustain them.


A major thrust of congressional attention to refugee affairs worldwide this year has been the dire financial straits of the international organizations which assist refugees and conflict victims. Severe fiscal crises have resulted from a rapid growth in the

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number of refugees, with a steady but not concomitant increase in international donor contributions. This situation reached a critical point in 1989 and mandated severe cutbacks in the program levels of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees budget for 1990, and we expect that budget to be fully funded. While the ICRC has cut its original program projections by one-third, it maintains a resilient will to respond when needed in a crisis, as demonstrated by the situation in the Persian Gulf.


New demands on scarce resources, coupled with budgetary constraints in all donor nations, will continue to require careful planning by both international organizations and donor governments. In fiscal year 1991, the President's budget request includes a greatly needed increase in regional refugee assistance of some $46 million, as well as a $25 million replenishment of the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance fund.

I would like now to turn to four regional situations which are currently receiving priority attention, Soviet refugee admissions being the first of these.


For many years, the United States and other nations have advocated greater freedom of emigration for Soviet citizens. We have devoted considerable effort and resources to support the resettlement of persecuted religious and ethnic minorities allowed to leave that country. The 50,800 Soviet refugees we will resettle this year in the United States sets a new record and parallels unmatched levels of Soviet Jewish emigration to Israel.

Last year I described our plans to close the Rome-Vienna pipeline for Soviet refugee applicants and to transfer all processing to Moscow. We discussed then a nascent Washington processing center, and a new system in which most of the paperwork for refugee applications would be handled in this country, with files shuttled back and forth to our Embassy in Moscow. We have now completed these changes, with the result that we can handle the same number of refugees at a substantially lower cost to the migration and refugee assistance budget. This new system has proven so successful that we are considering it as a model for other types of visa processing.


Indochinese refugees: I characterized the Vietnamese refugee problem last year as a long-standing and extraordinarily complex one. It is no less so now than then. However, we still believe that the comprehensive plan of action that resulted from the 1989 International Conference on Indochinese Refugees represents the best mechanism for addressing humanely the concerns of all involved nations. Implementation of the CPA is a difficult task, but we have been steadfast in our commitment to the practice of first asylum and our opposition to forced repatriation of the Vietnamese people. The most serious difficulty we have encountered has been Malaysia's refusal to offer safe landing to Vietnamese boat people. The

United States has protested-and continues to protest vigorouslyMalaysia's failure to abide by the CPA.


At the same time, however, there has been progress in several key areas. For example, resettlement of the longstayers has been a success, and we are ahead of the schedule agreed to at the conference. The Orderly Departure Program also has been vastly expanded with good cooperation from Vietnam. Refugee screening programs are under way in each first asylum nation, representing a major new activity on behalf of Indochinese asylum seekers. And voluntary repatriation programs under the CPA have enabled close to 10,000 Lao and Vietnamese to return home.

The major unresolved issue concerns the return of nonrefugees to Vietnam. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Thorvald Stoltenberg, has held extensive negotiations with all concerned governments on this subject and has proposed an expansion of the existing UNHCR voluntary repatriation program to include those "who do not object" to returning home. At the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference in late July, Secretary Baker announced U.S. support for the High Commissioner's efforts and raised U.S. concerns with the foreign ministers of each of the first asylum countries. Moreover, the Secretary stated the willingness of the United States to join in a multilateral pledge to undertake "best efforts" to accomplish the return or resettlement of all Vietnamese asylum seekers by the end of 1992. At the conclusion of the conference, the ASEAN nations confirmed their willingness to continue to support the CPA.


Recently, on September 22, the British and Vietnamese Governments, along with the UNHCR, announced an agreement on the return to Vietnam of Vietnamese in Hong Kong who have been determined not to be refugees and who do not object to their return. We expect the U.N. High Commissioner to provide the necessary safeguards to ensure that there is no force or coercion employed and that the existing system for UNHCR monitoring in Vietnam is expanded to cover all returnees.


Displaced persons in the Persian Gulf: The August 2 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq has generated a tremendous number of displaced persons. Exact figures are difficult to determine. However, at least 900,000 people have been forced to flee Iraq and Kuwait.

Those fleeing are generally not refugees suffering persecution but, rather, third-country nationals employed in Iraq and Kuwait. In most cases, they have escaped with few personal resources and will return home penniless.

Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other countries have undertaken impressive efforts to care for these displaced persons. Although conditions in some of the camps were initially harsh, there have been no deaths due to starvation or epidemic disease. In Jordan, the worst camps have been closed, and the residents have

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