Lawmakers renew push to grant asylum to refugees

There is a renewed effort in Congress to grant temporary asylum to the estimated 500,000 Salvadoreans who have fled their war-ravaged homeland. Proposed legislation, which would ban the deportation of Salvadorean refugees from the United States, may ultimately succumb to a presidential veto. But before it does, it could add to the Reagan administration's foreign-policy woes by opening another area of debate over Washington's Central America policies.

Rep. Joe Moakley (D) of Massachusetts and Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D) of Arizona introduced virtually identical bills in their respective chambers on Jan. 20. Representative Moakley's bill includes a ban on the deportation of undocumented Nicaraguan refugees in the US, and Senator DeConcini said Nicaraguans will be added to his legislation as it makes its way through the committee process.

The legislation, which the two lawmakers unsuccessfully backed last year, calls for a two-year moratorium on deportations of the Central Americans and directs Congress to undertake a study of conditions in El Salvador.

Large numbers of Salvadoreans began fleeing their country in 1980, when general fighting broke out between government troops and rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. Despite the ongoing war and persistent government human rights abuses, an average of 100 Salvadoreans are deported from the US every week, DeConcini said.

Moakley and DeConcini said their bills would not be necessary if the Reagan administration provided temporary refuge to Salvadorean and Nicaraguan refugees by granting them ``extended voluntary departure'' status. Refugees from Poland, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan all enjoy EVD status, but the White House argues that the Central Americans came to the US seeking a better standard of living, not to flee political violence in their homelands.

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