Why are the Soviets so intransigent on this particular issue while they are yielding in other fields, such as press censorship and jailed dissidents, almost without Western pressure? Until glasnost, Soviet rationale against emigration was primarily ideological; they could not admit that anyone would prefer the capitalist "jungle" to the socialist "paradise." Such argument is no longer valid. Today Soviet newspapers publish far more embarrassing information about the disastrous state of the Soviet economy, its health care and its legal system.
With respect to containing brain drain, the Soviet Union is in a much worse position than Israel, India or Italy. Although the citizens of these countries have a guaranteed right of free emigration, they cannot move to the United States unless they marry an American or are sponsored by a U.S. employer. In contrast, anybody who manages to get out of the Soviet Union is guaranteed prompt admission to the United States as a political refugee outside usual immigration quotas.
The Soviets should guarantee the unconditional right of every citizen to leave the country, permanently or temporarily. In response, the Americans should promise not to grant refugee status to Soviet applicants as long as Amnesty International and Helsinki Watch report no political prisoners and are satisfied with the degree of freedom of expression. Under this proposal, political asylum for Soviet visitors to the United States would be decided on the merits of each case individually.
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