Jewish groups hail rejection of immigration limitations

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jewish activists have emerged victorious from a two-year campaign to defeat a congressional proposal that would impose new limits on the number of refugees allowed into the United States each year.

While immigration reform is far from dead, the House of Representatives ended Congress' quest to impose a new cap on refugees with a mere 20-minute debate and a voice vote Wednesday of last week.

The move allows more than 30,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union to continue to come to the United States each year.

Jewish activists welcomed the vote.

"Refugees are not a problem in this country and it's fantastic that Congress recognized that fact," said Karen Senter, co-director for domestic concerns of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.

A Senate bill on immigration reforms scheduled for debate next month does not include a refugee cap.

In another move hailed by Jewish activists, the House on Thursday of last week deleted provisions of the bill that would have sharply reduced legal immigration.

The Senate, however, is still considering legislation that would reduce legal immigration.

Currently, the administration, in consultation with Congress, sets the limit for the number of annual refugee admissions allowed into the country.

This year, about 90,000 refugees are expected to come to the United States, including more than 30,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union.

Congress had proposed lowering the annual slots for refugees to 75,000 next year and to 50,000 per year after 1997.

The Jordan Commission, a presidential panel assigned to rewrite U.S. immigration policy, had recommended a limit on annual refugee admissions.

The House adopted the plan in its proposed legislation, but lawmakers balked at including the measure after a concerted lobbying campaign by immigration activists, including many Jewish groups.

House members appeared to accept the argument that refugee policy needs to remain flexible in order to meet the changing global conditions refugees face.

The vote "sends a message that we're still a caring country in a leadership role among all nations of the world in the resettlement of refugees," said Richard Jacobs, associate executive vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations.