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Immigration chief defends US asylum policy In his Aug. 3 opinion piece "A twisted sense of asylum," American Bar Association President Philip Anderson gives the mistaken impression that the Immigration and Naturalization Service's handling of asylum claims violates our international treaty obligations, and that we detain aliens simply because they seek asylum. INS has worked closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure that our asylum program is in full compliance with the Geneva Convention and other accords.

The relatively small percentage of detainees have not yet established the elements of their claims. In some cases, their identities are uncertain or there is reason to believe they will not appear for their hearings. Under these circumstances, their detention is consistent with both US law and UNHCR guidelines. Even so, about 40 percent of these individuals are released pending their hearings.

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I share Mr. Anderson's belief that we need to provide a safe and humane environment for all detainees, and INS has been working with the ABA and others to assure this. INS has implemented new standards dealing with visitation, attorney access, availability of legal materials, and telephone access, which were developed in consultation with the ABA. We are also working with UNHCR and community-based groups to develop alternatives to detention, such as the refugee shelter run by Freedom House in Detroit, which housed over 800 asylum seekers last year.

INS has made significant strides to improve its detention policies. Motivated by our belief that those who come to the US yearning to breathe freely should not languish behind bars, we are committed to making further improvements. Doris Meissner, Washington, INS Commissioner

Security in the Western Pacific There is only one reason why Western Pacific tensions are the highest since the Vietnam war ("In Tense Asia, US Juggles Carrots and Sticks" and "China is Top Challenge in Foreign Policy," both Aug. 18). It is the totalitarian form of government practiced by North Korea and China. While China's Communist Party at least has jettisoned Marxist economics, it and the North Korean government still brace themselves against the democratic wave of history.

China knows Taiwan will never peacefully merge with a totalitarian state, so Beijing rattles its sword. North Korea, a living monument to the Dark Ages, threatens long-range missile shots to obtain the food, oil, electricity, and medicine it denies its own people.

These regimes must give way to the historical forces reshaping the world: diffusion of information, democracy, and genuine bottom-up market economies. Until that happens, the only way to preserve the tenuous security in the Western Pacific is through a strong American military presence, with the permanent presence of additional Navy aircraft carrier battle groups. Ernest Blazar, Arlington, Va. The Lexington Institute

Balance in homeowners meetings Regarding "But isn't this my yard? Revolt against neighborhood rules" (Aug. 18): As an ex-president of our condo association, I discovered that routine management meetings are attended almost exclusively by the small number of members in the property best described as malcontents. They attend with the sole object of "enforcing our rules," erecting restricting signs, publishing lists of delinquent owners, etc. Not present are the kind, tolerant, and fun neighbors who could balance these meetings. They're too busy with their families and friends out on the beach. Peter Dalsgaard, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. We can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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