One of the very few places in the United States where defectors are understood and dealt with effectively is a row house in northwest Washington. The Jamestown Foundation (named after the new home of some earlier immigrants) works to ease the transition of Soviet bloc defectors into American life with advice, language training, job searches, introductions to potential American colleagues and by building friendships with individual Americans. The foundation has discovered bright and talented defectors living in slums in New York, snarled in business and personal debts, highly frustrated at their inability to find academic appointments, and having difficulty writing and publishing their work because of language problems. The foundation helps such people learn to cope in a multitude of ways.

Somehow this sort of sensitivity and common sense needs to be injected into the government's overall method of dealing with defectors without the accompanying straitjacket of statutes, regulations, rigid bureaucratic policies and the annual appropriations hassle.

On the base of a refurbished Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus' words will still offer "Send these the homeless, tempest tossed to me." We could do with a bit of refurbishment of our national policies as well, so that when the tempest tossed get here, we do more than shrug.

The writer, former undersecretary of the Navy, practices law in Washington.