Refugee Limit 70,000 in 2003
Fri Sep 20, 5:27 PM ET
By Suzanne Gamboa,
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush has told the State Department it can authorize 70,000 refugees
to enter the United States in 2003, far fewer than immigrant advocates
had hoped for after tightened security prevented thousands from
seeking new lives in this country this year.
Despite authorization of 70,000 refugees the
year ending Sept. 30, only about 28,000 were allowed to resettle
in the United States. The others, who were held up by delays in
processing and security checks, will have to try to gain entry in
As a result, advocates had hoped that next year
between 100,000 to 140,000 would be allowed in.
"We ... are actively working until the last
minute and the ink is dry ... to see the administration sets as
high a target as possible," said Gideon Arnoff, a Washington representative
for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
The administration released details of the refugee
authorization in a memo posted on the White House Web site Friday.
The State Department still must consult with Congress, which has
no power to reject the limit, and Bush will sign off on the final
number by the end of the year.
White House spokesman Taylor Gross said the
administration "is committed to increasing the number of refugees
admitted compared to this year. The purpose of the consultations
is to engage in discussions in exact numbers."
Asked whether the numbers would increase in
those consultations, Gross said: "We're not yet ready to announce
Immigration groups, however, said the proposal
is an indication of where the administration is headed.
Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of a Senate
immigration committee, said he had met with Secretary of State Colin
Powell about increasing the number and recommended
improvements for processing and better identifying vulnerable populations.
"Considering the enormity of the world refugee
population and the gravity of our humanitarian obligations, not
a single refugee slot should go to waste," Kennedy said.
Usually lawmakers quickly approve the president's
proposal, but this year advocates are urging members of Congress
to press for the higher numbers, said Hiram Ruiz, spokesman for
Immigration and Refugee Services of America. The national group
has partner organizations in 35 cities in the United States.
Arnoff said his group supports higher security
measures, but they have consequences. For example, they have caused
a delay of up to eight months in processing security reviews for
Iranian religious minorities.
"What's resulted is an extremely long delay
for Iranian Baha'is, Jews and Christians, who are not a threat to
us, but do come from a country that is a supporter of terrorism,
which is the reason they are fleeing and the reason why they are
seeking a safe life and is the reason why we are opposed to the
government of Iran," Arnoff said.
Arnoff said more resources are needed for security
clearances for refugees, many of whom are living in United Nations
operated refugee camps.
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