INS Would Encourage Nicaraguans to Depart : Immigration: They are now economic refugees, the head of the agency says. He suggests giving them loans to go home and rebuild their nation.
Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Gene McNary suggested Thursday that the federal government consider providing loans to Nicaraguans who fled the civil war in their country but now want to return home and rebuild the nation’s economy.
During a breakfast interview with Times reporters and editors, McNary said that the installation of an elected democratic government in Nicaragua has presented the United States with an opportunity to create “a blueprint for similar situations as they develop . . . around the world.”
He estimated that 100,000 to 170,000 Nicaraguan refugees reside in the United States, concentrated in Miami and other parts of South Florida, where “they’ve become a part of the community.” Because they no longer are facing political persecution, McNary said, they have become “economic refugees.”
“The question is, can we allow that to happen . . . ?” he said. “Once a situation is dissolved and the reasons for a refugee to be taken into another country is eliminated . . . don’t we have to indicate to those people that it’s time to go back so that we have the resources to help others who are political refugees?”
Answering his own question, McNary continued: “We’re not going to be able to alter our standard to include economic refugees. So that forces us, in my judgment, into some way to return the refugee but hopefully to bring about a stabilizing effect.”
McNary stressed that nothing has been decided and that his thoughts are “just pure discussion.” He said that he and “a bunch of eggheads on a think tank” have been kicking around the idea of identifying leaders in Nicaraguan communities around the United States and providing them with money to rebuild their country.
In the past, the U.S. government has seen its foreign aid to Central American countries “going into the hands of corrupt governments and not really being used for elevating the country economically or socially or in any other respect,” McNary said.
He noted that “some very capable people came out of Nicaragua” and said that the United States could identify those people and provide loans to help them create businesses and institutions that could generate much-needed capital for the war-torn country.
In commenting on another issue, McNary said that the U.S. Border Patrol will step up efforts to dissuade people from smuggling aliens into this country by fingerprinting persons apprehended when illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at San Diego and jailing repeat offenders.
“We want to identify the smugglers, fingerprint them, put them in detention, go for a deportation order and . . . deport them,” McNary said. “This is just a matter of enforcing a law that I don’t think has been enforced before for various reasons, mostly because of a lack of resources by the INS.”
McNary refused to say when the effort would begin, but he noted that enforcement of the stricter measures “will probably be gradual.”
Currently, illegal aliens captured by the Border Patrol are offered a hearing to determine whether they should be deported. Most reject the hearing and are sent across the border immediately. That process, McNary said, allows aliens to make repeated attempts to sneak into the country.
“We let them out the back door and . . . they’re back in the same day,” he said. “We have to be able to create a deterrent down there.”
Under the tougher procedure, the fingerprints of illegal aliens will be taken and filed, making it possible to identify and prosecute repeat offenders, shifting the problem from an immigration issue to a legal matter.