The United States, which doubled its quota of Indochinese refugees last summer as a humanitarian example for the world, has been forced to stop admitting refugees, as well as Soviet Jews and Cubans, while two House committees dispute which has jurisdiction over the program.
"There's been a disruption of movement of refugees from overseas . . . and a lot of uncertainty." said Margaret Carpenter, a spokeawoman for U.S. refugee coordinator Dick Clark. "Every day a Vietnamese refugee spends in a camp in Southeast Asia or a Soviet Jew spends waiting is not only an inconvienence -- it's suffering we're talking about."
The last group of refugees, who are filling authorized slots left over from previous months, was to arrive in the United States yesterday or today, Carpenter said.
Hearings were scheduled hurriedly for this week to authorize admission of more refugees under temporary procedures while the House committees debate on the permanent program.
At issue is the Refugee Act of 1979, comprehensive refugee legislation that would replace a patchwork of bills that expired Sept. 30.
The bill was submitted by the Carter administration in March and aproved by the Senate 85 to 0 more than a month ago. But the House Judiciary Committee, which approved an amended version of the bill on Sept, 19, has delayed sending it to the full House.
The reason, congressional and administrative sources said, is that the Judiciary Committee -- in particular Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N. Y.), chairman of the subcommittee on refugees -- is trying to keep the bill and the politically attractive issue of refugee in its domain and out of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
A spokeman for Holtzman's subcommittee insisted the refugee program could quite properly be defined as a domestic issue, and the committee's revisions of the bill were aimed at doing just that.
The Foreign Affairs Committee will never agree, a spokesman for it vowed.
After the Judiciary Committee files its report, the bill is to be sent to the Foreign Affairs Committee, which plans at least a month of review before sending it to the full House. Although passage is considered virtually certain, the bill probably will not come up for a vote until after the Thanksgiving recess.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti has agreed to use a special parole authority to admit refugees at September levels for the rest of the year, but, as a courtesy, isawaiting approval by the committees involved.