A Jewish group and a congressman say a Justice Department decision to allow some Soviet Jews into the United States under parole status rather than as refugees sends the wrong signal to Moscow.
Another Jewish organization, however, said Attorney General Dick Thornburgh's decision Thursday to grant parole status to as many as 2,000 Soviet emigres a month is a welcome step.In order to receive refugee status, a person has to show a well-founded fear of persecution.
Granting parole instead of refugee status "sends an incorrect message that Jews are not being persecuted in the Soviet Union," said Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee.
"By denying refugee status to Soviet Jews, it's prematurely sending a signal that the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union has so changed that they're not being persecuted, and that just isn't so," said Karl Zukerman, executive vice president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
Zukerman said those rejected for refugee status are subjected to persecution that is "indistinguishable from those accepted" into the United States.
The Reagan administration last summer stopped granting automatic political refugee status to Soviet Jews and other Soviet citizens. It said budget concerns were largely responsible for the change.
Those paroled into the United States must pay their own way, while transportation and resettlement costs for refugees are paid in part by the government.
The State Department told the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society that it will have about $27 million available during fiscal 1989 to pay for transporting only 12,000 Soviet Jews, said Zukerman.