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Senate Votes to Help China Students Stay

Times Staff Writer

The Senate, ignoring objections raised by President Bush, voted unanimously Tuesday to modify the Administration’s new program allowing more than 40,000 Chinese students in the United States to delay their return to China.

By a 97-0 vote, the Senate agreed that the students would be permitted to remain in the United States until June 5, 1990, without being required to make any statement that might brand them as dissidents. After that, their departure could be delayed until as late as June 5, 1992, unless both the President and the attorney general certify that the political climate in China no longer poses any danger to them.

In all cases, students under orders to leave the United States would be given 60 days to appeal their cases before their extended stay is officially terminated. In addition, the Senate measure eliminates a provision in current law requiring them to return to China for at least two years before seeking immigrant status.

The provision was designed to answer the many complaints that Chinese students have expressed about the delayed departure program that Bush created after the June 3-4 massacre in Beijing’s Tian An Men Square.

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While many Chinese students want to delay their return home in the wake of the killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people during the military assault, and many are worried by the ensuing political crackdown, most believe that by filing for delayed departure under the President’s program, they might be branded traitors by the Beijing government. Under Bush’s plan, they must declare their unwillingness to go home.

Moreover, many Chinese students fear that by entering the program outlined by Bush, they are agreeing to return home after one year--even if conditions there have not improved.

As a result, very few Chinese students have applied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to take advantage of the Administration program.

The Senate measure represents a bipartisan compromise. Some senators such as Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) had been seeking sweeping legislation that would allow all Chinese students to apply immediately for permanent residency status. But such proposals were strongly opposed by others, including Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), assistant minority leader and the Senate’s leader on immigration issues.

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Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) acknowledged that the Senate measure does not have the support of the President, but he insisted that Administration officials had raised only “some slight reservations” about these changes in Bush’s program.

Both Dole and Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Me.), who co-sponsored the Senate amendment, said that the changes they propose are in keeping with the original objectives of the President’s program.

Mitchell indicated that many Chinese students had lobbied him personally for these changes.

“I believe we should respond generously to this request by the Chinese students who are living among us and bravely standing up for freedom and democracy in their homeland,” Mitchell said.

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