119. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Emergency Parole for Indochinese Refugees

In the memorandum at Tab A2 Secretary Vance recommends that you approve 7,000 additional parole numbers for Indochinese boat-case refugees. We currently face an emergency situation in Indochina. Approximately 5,000 new boat cases without opportunities elsewhere have accumulated over the past several months. This number is growing at the rate of roughly 1,500 per month—three times the rate estimated as recently as September.

Based on population, resources, economic conditions, and motivation, the U.S. is the country most able to absorb Indochinese refugees. To date, only France has approached the level of effort which the U.S. has sustained of slightly more than one Indochinese refugee for each 1,300 in population. Excluding the U.S., the worldwide total of accepted [Page 415] boat cases has averaged 450 cases per month over the past four months. The State Department is hopeful that with the naming of Poul Hartling as the new UNHCR, the international situation will improve, but they are not optimistic for a dramatic increase in boat case acceptances.

State estimates the resettlement costs for 7,000 additional refugees at $6.3 million, all of which would be taken from the Emergency Fund. HEW estimates the welfare cost impact at $24.22 million over the next four years. HEW also points out that the amount required for FY 1978, $3.01 million, would require a supplemental appropriation, and that the FY 1979 and subsequent budgets must be increased over currently approved or projected levels.

The data are simply not available to make reliable estimates of escape rates from Indochina; however the numbers are likely to remain high over the next several years. Without reliable estimates, you have two options. You could draw the line now. We all believe that there should be limits to the extent of U.S. involvement, and we have already accepted over 75 percent of the Indochinese refugees that have been resettled—164,000 of 217,000. Such an action would result in considerable suffering in Indochina, and would surely be viewed as inconsistent with our human rights policy.

Alternatively, I recommend that you approve a parole of 10,000 and that you authorize the Administration to support Congressman Eilberg’s legislation which would provide long-term refugee acceptance authority and set limits on the extent of U.S. assistance. The additional 3,000 parole numbers will provide enough time for Congress to act on legislation before we are confronted with another refugee build-up. If legislation is not forthcoming, Congress would share the responsibility of a subsequent emergency. The increase over Cy’s request would increase the HEW costs by approximately $10 million over four years. Resettlement costs would increase by roughly $2.7 million, exhausting State’s available funds. Every effort should be made to keep our additional parole low-key so that we do not raise expectations unrealistically in Indochina.


That you approve a parole of 10,000 additional numbers.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 19, Indochina. Confidential. Sent for action. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. Carter wrote “C” at the top of the memorandum.
  2. See Document 117.
  3. Carter checked the approve option and wrote “7000” beside his approval. Underneath the recommendation, Carter wrote, “Tell State to evolve rapidly a permanent approach. We may be inducing unnecessary suffering by encouraging refugees to leave home with no place to go.” Hodding Carter announced on December 22 that the President had authorized Vance to request the Attorney General to admit an additional 7,000 Indochinese refugees into the country. (“President Agrees to Admit 7,000 Indochinese Refugees,” Washington Post, December 23, 1977, p. A11)