July 6, 1999
Hon. Sam Gejdenson
2304 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-0702
Attn: David Abramowitz
Dear Congressman Gejdenson:
We are writing to request your support for Sec. 274 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Bill when it goes to the floor in a few weeks. This section seeks to resolve some serious problems in ỤS. refugee programs in Vietnam.
Many victims of persecution who are otherwise eligible for refugee processing under these programs have not been able to sign up for reasons beyond their control. Many of them were still in prison or in internal exilẹ Others, such as Montagnards living in remote areas of the Central Highlands, never had notice of the deadline, or could not afford the bribes demanded by corrupt Vietnamese officials. Some of these did apply but their applications were never forwarded to the office of the ỤS. Orderly Departure Program (ODP) by the Vietnamese authorities. Sec. 274 gives these victims of persecution the chance to applỵ
Section 274 also seeks to resolve the plight of many refugees resettled to the ỤS. without their children. In 1994, the ỤS. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) established the new requirement of continuous “co-residency;” children without their names continuously listed in their parents’ family registration certificate were all excluded from the program. In 1995 the INS dropped this requirement, realizing that the Vietnamese government routinely denies family registration as a form of punishment. INS however refuses to reconsider cases that have already been affected. Sec. 274 will correct this situation.
Finally this section calls for the retention of Joint Voluntary Agency (JVA) as an advocate for the refugees. This organization has been most helpful in helping applicants in Vietnam overcome the communist bureaucracy and rampant corruption. It has also played an advocacy role where deserving cases are erroneously excluded by ỤS. interviewing officials. Considering the bureaucratic obstacles that eligible applicants — particularly Montagnards and others who have been severely persecuted — have faced in Vietnam, the role of JVA is critical.
The State Department is circulating an “Administration Position” with much misinformation in it. We call on you to look into each of the above problems and into the thousands of affected case files to find for yourself how reality is. As you may already know, these problems affect numerous constituents of your colleagues in Congress.
The passage of Sec. 274 seeks to remedy the injustices caused by these problems and bring the above U.S. refugee programs to a dignified closurẹ Your support for this section is requested and would be deeply appreciated.