U.S. Asylum Squeeze Affecting Policies Worldwide

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WASHINGTON -- Attitudes toward political asylum in the United States and the Western nations are hardening.

Governments are changing either their constitutions or legislation to deal with the global refugee crisis, and receiving countries are experiencing a severe anti-immigrant backlash.

Those themes emerged during a panel session on "asylum reform in perspective" at the annual National Legal Conference on Immigration and Refugee Policy here March 24 and 25. "In Europe, it's not just the extreme right and skin-heads" opposing immigration, said Charles B. Keely, Georgetown University asylum policy reform expert. "Ordinary people are asking: |What are we doing to ourselves? What does it mean to be Swedish or what does it mean to be Danish?'"

The question of what immigration or multiculturalism portends has triggered major Western crises and changes in the past 18 months, explained David Martin, University of Virginia law school professor, a key figure in drafting new proposed U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations.

Reviewing recent events, Martin said that a combination of asylum, refugee and migration issues "toppled Denmark's government after 10 years in power," at the start of 1993. "In May, Germany amended its constitutional guarantee of asylum. No one anticipated the quick appearance of a major constitutional debate in France -- which pushed through a constitutional amendment in record time."

Legislative changes were made in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and elsewhere, said Martin; and "on the very same day Denmark's government fell, President-elect Clinton surprised virtually everyone by announcing he would continue the Bush administration interdiction policy -- returning people to Haiti without inquiring into their possible refugee status."

The U. …