Hope for Haitian refugees: US likely to let them stay

The estimated 30,000 Haitian refugees who have fled to the United States since 1972 -- and possibly others -- will likely be allowed to stay, the Monitor has learned.

They would be granted asylum, possibly on political grounds, and this apparently could be done without a change in the immigration laws.

Two sources -- a key official working on immigration policy recommendations and a high administration official working closely with president Carter on immigration matters -- told the Monitor that a determination on the Haitians is only one of several important decisions on immigration the federal government must make.

In the words of one official, US immigration policy is "out of control."

Options being weighed both at the White House and by a congressionally appointed commission would lead to a major overhaul of US immigration policies.

But the Haitian and Cuban refugees, who have come in even greater numbers, have posed the most immediate problems for the administration.

The isue of "equity" -- that is, equal treatment of Cubans and Haitians -- is being dealt with "urgently and prayerfully," says Lincoln Bloomfield of the National Security Council. He describes some of the decisions to be made as "agonizing."

A high administration source who asked not to be identified said: "We can't take everyone into the US who wants to come." But this source indicated the outcome is "likely to be different" from accepting the Cubans and sending the Haitians back.

Persons with a "well-founded fear" of persecution if returned to their home countries can legally stay in the US as political refugees. Officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service say the Haitians face no such persecution and should be deported.

At a recent court hearing in Miami, however, Haitian witnesses testified that their government has orders to detain returned persons from the US. Prison and even physical abuse may follow, these witnesses said.

But while a decision in that case appears imminent, it is not expected to be the deciding factor for President Carter.

Administraton officials are deeply concerned about what kind of "signal" allowing Haitians to stay will send to the rest of the world. To head off any massive increase in aliens attempting to enter the US illegally, officials are anxious to get a broad, updated immigration policy adopted.

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