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The Mistreated Refugees From El Salvador; [FINAL Edition]
Bill Frelick. The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext). Washington, D.C.: May 31, 1988. pg. a.21
Abstract (Summary)

[David Kenyon] noted that the methods the INS uses to coerce and intimidate Salvadorans into abandoning their asylum claims and "voluntarily" going home range "from subtle persuasion to outright threats and misrepresentations." He said that this "is not the result of isolated transgressions by a few overzealous officers," but rather "results from INS policies, and forms a pattern and practice of illegal conduct which is approved, authorized and/or ratified by INS personnel at all levels." Salvadoran refugees have not been treated fairly by the United States. The basis of their mistreatment is a pervasive predisposition at all levels of the U.S. government to view their claims to refugee status as illegitimate. As Kenyon observed, "This pattern of misconduct flows directly from the attitudes and misconceptions of INS officers and their superiors as to the merits of Salvadoran asylum claims and the motives of . . . {those} who flee El Salvador and enter this country." A remedy for Salvadorans is on the horizon. A bill calling for temporary safe haven for Salvadorans and Nicaraguans has passed the House and been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Moakley-DeConcini bill would not grant asylum to Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, but would accord them temporary legal protection against deportation pending a study on the conditions of people returned to those countries. Although there is already, in effect, a nondeportation policy for Nicaraguans, and Nicaraguans here are authorized to work while their asylum claims are pending, hundreds of Salvadorans are returned to El Salvador every month.

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Copyright The Washington Post Company May 31, 1988 The new "immigration reform" law included an amnesty for illegal aliens who have lived here since before 1982, and it gave them a year to sign up to legalize their status, a year in which some 2 million persons have registered. Now the carrot is put away and the stick comes out-the employer sanctions in that same legislation go into full effect. Employers will face fines, even imprisonment, if they hire undocumented aliens. The idea is to force those who are not legally allowed to be here to go home. It seems simple, straightforward, fair. It's not. The immigration law assumes that all undocumented aliens sneaked into the United States illegally in order to get jobs. If the jobs dry up, they will go home. Jobs, henceforth, will be reserved for our own or for those who abide by our laws. But the "pull" of economic opportunity only tells part of the story for that subcategory of migrants known as "refugees." Refugees, too, have felt a "push" out of their homelands, often a violent, wrenching push that leaves them fearful of returning. Many Salvadoran refugees in the United States have fled horrors most Americans can

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hardly imagine. That country's civil war has left between 40,000 and 50,000 civilians dead, many the victims of death-squad torture and terror. It has caused the displacement of onequarter of that country's population. And death-squad killings, which had been on the decline, are now on the upswing. Most Salvadorans fled to the United States after the civil war in their country began to heat up in the early 1980s, so that many arrived after the immigration law's cutoff date of Jan. 1, 1982. It is estimated that less than 20 percent of the half-million or more undocumented Salvadorans in this country were eligible to register for the amnesty. So why don't they apply for political asylum? The United States recognizes that refugees who fear persecution should not be forced to return home. Last year, for example, the United States approved 84 percent of Nicaraguan asylum applicants who said they feared going home. Again, the U.S. stance seems eminently fair and reasonable. But the approval rate for Salvadoran asylum applicants over the past four years has been only 2.7 percent. This paltry approval rate stands in stark contrast to the recent finding of a federal judge in California that "a substantial number of Salvadorans who flee El Salvador possess a well-founded fear of persecution pursuant to U.S. asylum laws." Ruling in a class action suit, Orantes-Hernandez v. Meese, Judge David Kenyon found that the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service "engages in a persistent pattern and practice of misconduct" specifically geared toward Salvadorans in its custody, which has the effect of depriving them of "their constitutional right to due process and the statutory right to apply for political asylum." Kenyon noted that the methods the INS uses to coerce and intimidate Salvadorans into abandoning their asylum claims and "voluntarily" going home range "from subtle persuasion to outright threats and misrepresentations." He said that this "is not the result of isolated transgressions by a few overzealous officers," but rather "results from INS policies, and forms a pattern and practice of illegal conduct which is approved, authorized and/or ratified by INS personnel at all levels." Salvadoran refugees have not been treated fairly by the United States. The basis of their mistreatment is a pervasive predisposition at all levels of the U.S. government to view their claims to refugee status as illegitimate. As Kenyon observed, "This pattern of misconduct flows directly from the attitudes and misconceptions of INS officers and their superiors as to the merits of Salvadoran asylum claims and the motives of . . . {those} who flee El Salvador and enter this country." The immigration law was not intended to protect refugees; it was meant to rid the United States of illegal aliens who came seeking economic opportunity and who would freely return home if jobs were not available. Many of those in Congress who voted for immigration reform assumed that other laws they had earlier passed-most notably the Refugee Act of 1980-would protect any who feared for their lives and liberty upon return. But the asylum laws have not been faithfully executed; in their implementation they have discriminated against certain nationalities-most notably Haitians and Guatemalans, in addition to Salvadorans-and have not provided a safety net for those who fear the abuses of their own governments. Now, many Salvadoran refugees, as well as other refugees whose claims the United States is reluctant to acknowledge, are left in an extremely vulnerable position. They are increasingly subject to exploitation by those employers who are willing to weigh the risks of employer sanctions against the profits to be made by hiring a docile work force willing to work long hours at below the minimum wage. They are afraid to ask even for basic health and safety standards in the work place. Landlords know that illegal aliens living in squalid, overcrowded tenements will not protest; criminals know that this prey will not report to the police. Those Salvadorans who remain undocumented are indeed being squeezed further and further into the margins of American society. But as much as they are squeezed, the
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refugees in this group will not go home. What we will be left with is "a fearful, easily exploitable subclass"-the words Sen. Alan Simpson, the author of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, used to describe the group he thought this law would eliminate from American society. They are still here, however, and will remain so. A remedy for Salvadorans is on the horizon. A bill calling for temporary safe haven for Salvadorans and Nicaraguans has passed the House and been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Moakley-DeConcini bill would not grant asylum to Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, but would accord them temporary legal protection against deportation pending a study on the conditions of people returned to those countries. Although there is already, in effect, a nondeportation policy for Nicaraguans, and Nicaraguans here are authorized to work while their asylum claims are pending, hundreds of Salvadorans are returned to El Salvador every month. The temporary safe haven bill is not an attempt to change the rules midway through the game. It is not to say, "Now that employer sanctions are here, we want more amnesty." But it does recognize that immigration reform does not exist in a vacuum. It is part of a fabric of laws and regulations-many quite well intentioned-that should protect both U.S. interests and the human rights of refugees and immigrants. The writer is a policy analyst for the U.S. Committee for Refugees.
[Illustration] ILLUSTRATION,,Bas Indexing (document details) Author(s): Section: Publication title: Source type: ISSN: Bill Frelick OP/ED The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext). Washington, D.C.: May 31, 1988. pg. a.21 Newspaper 01908286

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