112. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1
- State Proposal to Admit 15,000 Indochinese Refugees in the U.S.2
Secretary Vance wishes authorization to request the Attorney General to exercise his parole power to admit 15,000 Indochinese refugees in the U.S. during 1977–1978 (Tab A).3 Initial transportation and resettlement costs will be borne by State at an estimated cost of $13.5 million. Much of this money would come from State’s refugee emergency fund, most of which would have to be restored to the fund by a supplemental appropriation by FY 78.
You face decisions concerning:
—The basis upon which the refugees should be admitted.
—The level of post-resettlement welfare to be provided to the refugees.
—The advisability of developing a longer-term program for dealing with the problem.
This memorandum has been coordinated by my staff, with the staffs at OMB, HEW, Justice, Labor, Domestic Council, and State.
I. Options for Securing Entry
Option I. Do not admit any more Indochinese refugees.
Discussion: This option rejects the State proposal and would rely on a special U.N. effort to resettle refugees elsewhere. It is not cost-free, since the U.S. would bear some burden—between $5–10 million per year—to help resettle refugees elsewhere.
Option 2: Seek Congressional legislation to admit the 15,000 (or more). This route would incur much delay and passage of the necessary legislation is not assured.
Option 3: Accept State plan to request the Attorney General to authorize use of the parole authority to admit 15,000.[Page 394]
—This is the sure and swift remedy.
—We have a moral obligation to move swiftly; our human rights stand requires us to admit some of those who flee tyranny.
—It would be fruitless to request the assistance of third countries, other than France, in solving the refugee problem without offering it ourselves.
—While some Congressional (e.g., Eilberg, D. Pa.) displeasure might be aroused and Justice would take some heat, failure to go this route would result in strong media and Hill (Senator Kennedy) condemnation.
—It is costly. In addition to initial costs, it will increase Congressional pressures to continue the substantial federal assistance program for all Indochinese refugees now in the U.S.
—State’s proposal is a band-aid solution to a long-term problem.
—We have not yet explored possibilities for major U.N. resettlement effort in Southeast Asia.
That you authorize State to request the Attorney General to exercise his parole authority to admit 15,000 Indochinese refugees in 1977–1978. (NSC, State, Labor, HEW, Lipshutz, and Watson4 recommend parole. Domestic Council recommends parole of 8000 boat refugees only. OMB and Justice make no recommendation.)5
II. Options for Welfare Funding After the 15,000 Refugees Have Been Admitted
150,000 Indochinese refugees now receive federally-funded special welfare assistance that costs about $100 million per year through authorization that terminates on September 30, 1977. HEW has sought OMB reaction to proposed legislation to extend the authorization on a descending scale for three years, to which OMB has not yet responded. OMB staff finds it difficult to make a recommendation on welfare funding for the 15,000 until OMB decides on the preferable welfare funding for the 150,000.[Page 395]
You must decide how the welfare benefits for the 15,000 should be related to the benefits for the 150,000. There are four choices, each with a drawback:
—Provide full, special federal benefits to the 15,000, irrespective of the benefits provided the 150,000. Federal cost: $11.2 million for FY 78 and $36.0 million for FY 78–80. (This option would create pressure to continue the current, costly welfare program for the 150,000.)
—Provide the same benefits to the 15,000 that the 150,000 will receive. The benefits for the 15,000 could be full, descending, or nil, depending on what happens to the 150,000. Federal cost for the 15,000: $9.7–$11.2 million for FY 78 and $23.7–$36.0 million for FY 78–80. (This option would make it more difficult to allow the current authorization to lapse on September 30.)
—Provide no special federal benefits to the 15,000, regardless of the benefits provided the 150,000. Federal cost: $1.3 million for FY 78 and $5.3 million for FY 78–80. (This option would place a heavy burden on the states, induce Congressional opposition, and possibly create inequities.)
—To defer decision on the welfare provisions for the 15,000 until you receive the OMB proposal concerning welfare policy toward the existing 150,000. (This option would mean that when announcement of the parole is made, no announcement could be made about welfare provisions.)
RECOMMENDATIONS: (Justice has none.)
That HEW seek to provide the same benefits to the 15,000 that the 150,000 will receive. (NSC, Domestic Council, Labor, State, and HEW concur.)
That you defer announcement until you receive the OMB proposal on welfare policy toward the existing 150,000 refugees. (OMB staff supports this option.)6
III. Interagency Study Under State Leadership for a Long-Term Policy on the Indochinese Refugees
Clearly, this program is a stop gap measure. We need a longer-term program which would ensure that other countries (Japan, Australia, France, Canada, Thailand, etc.) will bear an appropriate financial and resettlement burden and which grapples with welfare funding for the [Page 396] refugees once resettled in the U.S. or elsewhere. A capacity to admit 15,000 during the next 18 months will give us time to develop a more enduring solution.
That you instruct State to chair an inter-agency task force with OMB, Labor, Justice, HEW, NSC, and the Domestic Council to develop a longer-term program for dealing with the Indochinese refugee problem. (NSC recommends approval.)7
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 19, Indochina. Secret. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Carter wrote “C” at the top of the page.↩
- Brzezinski wrote underneath the subject line, “(Includes reactions of domestic agencies).”↩
- Printed as Document 110.↩
- Jack Watson, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Cabinet Secretary.↩
- Carter checked the approve option and initialed “JC” in the adjacent right-hand margin.↩
- Carter substituted the word “announcement” for “decision.” He checked the approve option and initialed “J” in the adjacent right-hand margin.↩
- Carter checked the approve option.↩