WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration announced today that Nicaraguan exiles, numbering as many as 200,000 nationwide, will be permitted to stay in the United States under a liberalized immigration policy.
Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III signed an order, after consultation with the White House, ensuring that Nicaraguans who have fled to the United States can remain here, the Justice Department said in a statement.
No Nicaraguan with a well-founded fear of persecution from the leftist Sandinista government will be deported unless he has engaged in serious criminal activity or poses a danger to national security, the Justice Department statement said.
There are an estimated 60,000 Nicaraguans in Florida and 90 who are eligible for immediate deportation, immigration officials said. Refugee advocates say as many as 75,000 Nicaraguans have settled in South Florida since the July, 1979, triumph of the Sandinista revolution.
Nationwide, there are an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Nicaraguan exiles, most in the Southwest and West.
Nicaraguans will be allowed to remain in the United States "for the present" under Meese's order, which "is effective until further notice," the Justice Department statement said.
Every qualified Nicaraguan seeking a work authorization will be entitled to one, the statement added.
Nicaraguan exiles have protested the tight U.S. immigration policies applied to them at the same time that the U.S. government has treated the Sandinista government of their homeland as an enemy by aiding \o7 contra \f7 rebels.