As both the administration and Congress yesterday began stepping up efforts to grapple with the growing refugee crisis in Southeast Asia, the House unanimously approved a resolution urging President Carter to call for an emergency United Nations session to deal with the problem.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), speaking before representatives from all the American refugee resettlement agencies, a few minutes after the vote, reiterated his support for a U.N. sponsored conference on the issue "to address the political and military issues that lie behind the massive outflow of refugees."
Ambassador Dick Clark, U.S. coordinator for refugee affairs, met with Vice President Mondale and members of the National Security Council yesterday afternoon to discuss options for dealing with the crisis, which many observes believe has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of dealths.
Clark would not detail the options considered, but said they will be presented to the president later this week. Clark said the refugee problem in Southeast Asia was discussed with the Soviets at the summit, but said he had no further information.
Several speakers at the National Coalition for Refugee Resettlement conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, including Kennedy, expressed concern that little substantive action has been taken recently to meet the refugee crisis.
"We made a commitment . . . on paper," said Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.), referring to congressional approval earlier this year of admission of 8,000 Indochinese refugees a month into the United States. The administration, she said, has unilaterally cut that figure to 7,000. "That agreement has not been honored," Holtzman said.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) called for doubling that number to 14,000 refugees a month over the next three years.
Alluding to opposition in Congress to a larger U.S. effort - the program as it stands now will cost nearly $400 million - Kennedy said, "I think we here in the Congress have probably become obsessed with numbers and figures . . . and we lose the dimension of what this means in human terms . . .
"We are confronting today a regional crisis of people which calls for an emergency international response if we are to avoid witnessing another holocaust."