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example, on a $3,000 bond, refugees must pay $1,625; on a $4,000 bond, $1,940. This is money that the company keeps as a fee; it is not refunded. Refugee lawyers say the rates are higher than elsewhere in the U.S. And Aaron Federal Bonding spokesman Mark Mohr freely admits the rates for refugees are much higher than rates for other types of customers largely because the refugees can provide no collateral or proof of work. THERE is another group of refugees: those who have never been caught by la migra. But they are not always the lucky ones. They live in limbo, unable to get past the check points, yet unable to proceed with their cases. In the past it has sometimes made sense for them to give up the underground life and declare their presence to the INS. In a process known as “affirmative asylum” they could apply at the immigration office for political asylum and go free while the application was being processed. This made the refugee eligible to receive work permission. But in May of 1982, the Harlingen district of INS effectively did away with affirmative asylum and started rewarding those people who declared their presence here by detaining them. Lawyers soon stopped taking undocumented Central Americans in for fear they would end up in the holding tank. The policy changed again last fall, when the INS began accepting affirmative asylum claims but only for Nicaraguans. George Somerville of the INS told Proyecto attorney Steve Jahn in late December that the office will accept only those applications submitted for asylum by Nicaraguans and refuse a similar application from any other Central American. When Jahn pointed out that INS regulations ensure the right of all undocumented people to apply to the INS district director for asylum, Somerville told him that \(TAR14111131 Listed On The National Register of Historic Places “Go gather by the humming sea Some twisted, echo-harboring shell, And to it all thy secrets tell” W. B. Yeats P.O. Box 8 Port Aransas, TX 78373 Nicaraguans are finding it easier to win asylum, thanks to a policy change by U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese. they were only following the “directive” from U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese regarding Nicaraguans. Meese declared last July that Nicaraguan asylum claims should be given preference. Somerville said the INS district director is empowered with the discretion to refuse to even accept applications from other nationalities. Although INS director Sewell says he does not have statistics on how many asylums are granted from his office, national statistics released in December show that 83.9 percent of all Nicaraguans who applied for asylum by declaring themselves at the immigration office in fiscal 1987 received it, compared to 3.6 percent of Salvadorans and 3.8 percent of Guatemalans. In talking with other refugee lawyers in the country, Proyecto lawyers have found that the Harlingen district is the only one in the country that refuses to accept non-Nicaraguan Central American asylum claims. The other and more common avenue for seekers of political asylum is the courts. In 1983 the Justice Department created the Executive Office of Immigration Review and appointed judges to hear asylum claims. The purpose was to create an independent body not controlled by the INS and to respond to the concern that INS judges hearing the claims were not being objective. However, the result has hardly been objectivity: less than two percent of Salvadorans and less than one percent of Guatemalans have been granted asylum. Proyecto has won only three asylum claims since it opened. Some districts are more successful, due to a handful of judges who are not in the thrall of the Reagan administration’s politics. In Phoenix, for example, the Central American Refugee Project has won 60 percent of its asylum claims this year, due largely, say lawyers, to three new judges who are more sympathetic to the refugees’ plight than previous judges. Regional INS district director Sewell denies that the agency is playing politics with refugees. “People think we sit around and talk national politics in this office. It’s not true. We just follow the law.” Maybe Sewell and his crew don’t talk politics but what law are they following? A law which more and more blatantly favors Nicaraguans because they are fleeing a “communist” country where Reagan is waging a war. Although Sewell will not provide statistics on a nationality basis, refugee lawyers cite the following: Nearly all Nicaraguans applying for work permits in this district receive them. Although the INS will not release statistics on work permits, lawyer Thelma Garcia says all her Nicaraguan clients have received permission, despite the fact that many have frivolous claims to asylum. When they receive work authorization, the Nicaraguans receive permission to leave the Valley without posting bond. When Nicaraguans apply for affirmative asylum, they are seldom detained but rather granted work and travel permission. Judges are quicker to lower the bonds on Nicaraguans, Garcia says. “They feel like Nicaraguans fear more repression, that they’re likely to make a better asylum claim, so they’ll give them lower bonds. I’ve had Nicaraguans in the same situations as Salvadorans and had their bonds reduced $500-to-$2,000 more than the Salvadoran.” Judges also favor Nicaraguans because, coming from the upperand middle-classes who are fleeing social change, they are often better educated than Salvadorans and Guatemalans. Judges will grant Nicaraguans a change of venue with much less paperwork and proof than a Salvadoran simply because they believe the Nicaraguans will report for their cases. Fewer Nicaraguans are detained in the corraldn, says Fr. DePasquale, who visits the corraldn and works with Casa Romero. “There’s a token detention of Nicaraguans to give the impression that they’re treating them the same as others, but they’re not,” he says. The new Immigration Reform and Control Act will mean an even harsher life to the Rio Grande Valley’s Central American refugees. Few Central Americans qualify for the amnesty program because few have entered the U.S. before the January 1, 1982, cut-off date. When the period for amnesty application ends in May, the Border Patrol, with a force doubled in size, will be able to concentrate fully on rounding up undocumented people in the workplace. Meanwhile, el corraldn, which was built to hold 700, may be expanded. INS official Sewell said in an interview that the possibility exists to expand the facility to hold 2,000 refugees sometime next year. INS policies have not succeeded in keeping refugees out of the country although it appears in the Valley they have succeeded in keeping refugees contained. A family of three Salvadorans recently interviewed in Refugio del Rio Grande told how they tried to elude the Sarita checkpoint only to be caught and turned back by the Border Patrol. They are now preparing to try again, realizing their only hope for economic survival is in the North. “We can’t go back to El Salvador, and we can’t stay here,” said the father. “So there’s only one way to go.” 10 MARCH 1 1 , 1988