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Copyright (c) 2003 Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center 
Touro Law Review

ARTICLE: Refugee Status for Soviet Jewish Immigrants to the United States

Winter / Spring, 2003

19 Touro L. Rev. 419


Victor Rosenberg 1



Among the issues discussed at the November 2001 meeting of American President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin was the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, 2 which denies most-favored-nation status to countries restricting the right of emigration. Although the Jackson-Vanik Amendment appears to be obsolete with reference to post-Soviet Russia, which allows free emigration, it remains on the books, highlighting past and present American concern with the Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union. 3

Official American concern for Russian Jews, fostered at least in part by Jewish lobbying, existed during tsarist days. During that period, however, the right of Jews both to emigrate from the Russian Empire and to enter the United States was largely unrestricted. When American concern came to the fore again during the 1950s, especially after 1967, the issue was the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel. Soon, however, increasing numbers of Soviet Jewish emigrants preferred to go to the United States rather than to Israel. This led to policy debates, both within the American Jewish community and within the American government, which intensified in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Soviet Union liberalized its emigration policy.

This is a study primarily of changing American policy toward granting refugee status to Soviet Jewish immigrants from the time that liberalization of the Soviet emigration policy led to a huge increase in their number. At the center of the discussion is the Lautenberg Amendment, 4 first passed in 1989, ...
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