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To the editor:

In your editorial of Feb. 4, you urged that the 14,000 Haitians not be returned until conditions change in Haiti. That presents a problem. What are we going to do with the 14,000 people? It may be a long time before there is a change in the leadership in Haiti. Keeping them in tent camps in the Guantanamo Naval Base for an indefinite period would not be very satisfactory.If they were brought to the United States and not kept in detention, they would all disappear. Any degree of success in remaining in the United States, even for a temporary period, would only act as a beacon to attract thousands of others to attempt an ocean crossing in anything that would float.

They say their life or freedom would be threatened if returned to Haiti. If such were the case, the United States could not send them back. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the government cannot deport or return any alien to his country where his "life or freedom would be threatened - on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion." The definition of a refugee uses similar language.

The burden is on the alien to show that he will, as an individual, be targeted for persecution. Precedent cases hold that a generalized danger in a country is not sufficient.

In our hemisphere, as well as other areas throughout the world, there are millions that deserve our sympathy, but there are limitations on how many we can help.

Reece Robertson

Retired immigration officer

Salt Lake City