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'American Sanctuary'

May 24, 1988

The position taken in your editorial "American Sanctuary" (April 8), advocating passage of the Moakley-DeConcini legislation granting extended voluntary departure to El Salvadorans and Nicaraguans illegally in this country is wrong.

The proposed ill-founded legislation would attract additional illegal entrants and undermine the comprehensive and orderly system created by the Refugee Act of 1980 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

For many reasons, including the legalization (amnesty) provisions of IRCA, it is wholly inappropriate to draft country-specific legislation that skirts the purpose of that law and would act as a magnet to attract countless new illegal entrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua and other Central American countries. Among those applying for legalization, the second largest number is from El Salvador, and the seventh is Nicaragua.

In the case of El Salvador, the immigration policy implications of suspension of deportation are enormous. It is a country with a history of large-scale illegal immigration to the United States.

An intelligent and industrious Salvadoran weighing a decision to try illegal immigration to the U.S. knows that one of the risks is deportation, which might occur before he has had a chance to earn back the costs of the journey. If we remove the possibility of deportation, illegal entry becomes a more attractive investment.

The "magnet effect" would be overwhelming. In a Spanish International Network poll, two-thirds of Salvadorans said they would emigrate to the United States. Over $30 million per month is sent home from Salvadorans working illegally in the United States. In addition, the vast majority of Salvadorans who do file for asylum allege no fear of persecution, but state that they came to the United States to work. The evidence simply does not indicate that most Salvadorans are here in this country to escape persecution.

In conclusion, there is no need for either the Moakley-DeConcini legislation or the so-called "safe haven" bill, which would have many of the same impacts, and Congress should reject them. The American public should insist that Congress not allow differences over our foreign policy in Central American to undercut the sound foundations of U.S. immigration policy. We must be firm in adhering to sound immigration policies in effect to stop illegal immigration.




Washington, D.C.

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