For Immediate Release
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(San Jose, Costa Rica)
May 8, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY
COMMISSIONER OF IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION
DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JIM STEINBERG,
SENIOR DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL
FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC POLICY LAEL BRAINERD
Camino Real Hotel
San Jose, Costa
3:12 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon.
Q What's so good about it?
MR. MCCURRY: We're having a great day, a very exciting
filled with lots of exciting words, lots of paper and the prospects of an
early evening for members of the press. And I didn't see many of you
requesting autographs, along with your counterparts at the end of the
conference. Maybe that's a feature we should institute at news
I've asked Jim Steinberg, Deputy National Security
give you a little overview, a sense of flavor of some of the discussions
today. A lot of you have questions specifically about immigration, about
of our consultations with Congress on the effect of the 1996 immigration
so I also am pleased to have Commissioner Doris Meissner here from the
Immigration and Naturalization Service. Lael Brainerd is Senior Director
the National Economic Council for International Economic Policy -- is
put a lot of work into putting together the communique that was issued
And Geoff Pyatt is here, too, and everyone here can probably address any
questions you have about -- remaining on some of the paper we put out.
I've got some domestic things at the end that I'll tell
about, too. And we'll do this as quickly as we can.
MR. STEINBERG: Thank you, Mr. McCurry. As we are all
stands between you and the Costa Rican sunshine, I'll make this brief and
to answer your questions.
Let me say a couple of words about the general tenor of
discussions at the summit meeting today and some of the key conclusions
they reached. I think the thing that was most striking to all the
participants was that there really is a sense of a new kind of
developing between Central Americans and the United States. They want to
about a new era and a new language of discourse between the United States
these countries. There's a sense that because we now have a
region that are all democracies, that with the Guatemalan peace,
that the region is peaceful and that the commitment to economic
reform means that we can have a relationship that has common
values and can talk about common challenges.
There has been, obviously, a concern among leaders
in the region that with the end of the Cold War that there would
be somehow a lessening of attention to them, just at the very
time when they are succeeding and doing all the things that we
had hoped very much would happen for the region. And I think
what you could hear from President Figueres's comments in the
press conference today, which were very much reflected in the
discussions, was a sense that the President's presence here and
the kinds of approaches that we are taking, in his words,
represent insight and thoughtfulness that really gave them a
sense of optimism and a sense of confidence that we could build
this new kind of relationship.
I think there were two elements to point to in the
discussions that really reflect that. First, in terms of how we
are going to relate to each other, there is a set of agreements
that develop a much more structured and intensified dialogue
between the United States and Central America. We have the
annual meetings that Secretary Albright will be having with her
foreign minister counterparts, the joint investment committee
which is going to be dealing with the trade and economic issues.
We have Attorney General Reno's meetings; Commissioner Meissner
is meeting with her colleagues. And I think for those of you who
have been with us and saw the evolution of the Binational
Committee process in Mexico, you can see that as you get more
similarities between these countries and more shared sets of
interests, you can have a much richer and broad-ranging dialogue.
The President, for example, pointed extensively and
they talked quite a bit during the meeting about education as
another area where they can cooperate together. So I think that
it is this sense that with peace and democracy in the region,
that we can have a much more structured dialogue that gives the
countries a sense that their concerns are not going to be
neglected and that we do have a shared agenda.
In the specifics, I think that they focused their
discussions on three topics. The first was on law enforcement
and regional security. But it was interesting in the discussions
that there was a great deal of discussion about the significance
of democracy to these countries. They talked a lot the
development of civil society. They talked a lot about the need
to develop independent police forces, to separate the police and
the military, and really a very profound understanding about sort
of the structural changes that democracy brings. And it was
something that interested a lot of them to talk about those
On the specifics, they obviously agreed on the
importance to deal with creating stability both in a regional
security sense and also in terms of crime and corruption. The
President indicated his intention to go forward with the
international law enforcement academy in the region, expanded
training for law enforcement personnel. They had a discussion,
as you heard, about extradition and Attorney General Reno's
indications that she is going to follow up with her colleagues in
They also had, as you heard, an extensive discussion
of the economic issues. I think one of the most interesting
moments in the discussion was at the beginning of the discussion
of the economic issues -- and I'm paraphrasing, not directly
quoting -- but President Arzu indicated that he had come to the
discussion with long prepared remarks about their hopes and goals
in terms of a new economic relationship with the United States.
And he said, I don't need to read these remarks because what I've
heard from you gives me confidence that we're moving in that
I think the structure that the President outlined in
the press conference reflects the approach that we're taking, and
I think that you could hear from all the remarks that there was a
sense that this really is recognition on our part that we have a
great deal of interest in the economic development of this
region, not only because it creates new markets for the United
States, but also because economic prosperity will help solidify
democracy and regional peace and could also help deal with the
kinds of social dislocations that can lead to problems with
Then the third topic that they discussed in detail
was migration and I will leave it to Commission Meissner to talk
about the details of the migration issues.
They intend to talk at lunch about environment and
sustainable development issues, which will be the focus of
tomorrow's activities. The President will give a speech in
connection with his visit to the cloud forest, where he will
outline the importance of sustainable development issues to this
region, to the hemisphere and to the globe.
It's obviously significant that we do this here in
Costa Rica because Costa Rica has really been a leading force in
a number of ways, a number of innovative ways, on environment and
sustainable development issues in terms of their own work with
the private sector, to involve them there; the idea of joint
implementation working with the private sector to develop
effective strategies to deal with environmental issues; the
tremendous emphasis they put on using the environment as a source
of jobs through ecotourism; innovative strategies for clean air,
such as the increased use of electric vehicles; and the really
remarkable park system here, which is a real reflection of the
commitment of this country to environment and sustainable
development, and the interesting historical connection between
the head of their park service who, after having visited the
United States and seen our national parks came back and was
inspired by that vision.
The President will talk about efforts that we are
engaged with in this region to work with them on environment and
sustainable development, and will also talk about our global
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Well, following on what Jim
said, the discussion of migration this morning really took off
from the discussion of democracy in that the Presidents all
talked about the importance of economic prosperity to the
survival of their democracies and really led into the immigration
discussion by talking about how they wanted their countries to be
not only peaceful after wars, but prosperous and offer life,
hope, future to their people so that they no longer needed to be
sources of illegal immigration and no longer needed to be
countries that were poor, wringing the United States and,
therefore, a problem to the United States from the standpoint of
At the same time, they were very concerned about the
new immigration law and concerned about its consequences for
nationals from their countries that are in the United States, and
here, we're talking principally about Nicaragua and El Salvador
-- to some extent Guatemala -- but it's basically those three
countries and it was primarily the Nicaraguan President and the
El Salvadoran President that spoke to these issues.
And they recounted how the wars in their region in
the '80s were not only the result of domestic issues and turmoil
schisms in their own societies, but also were battlegrounds for
the Cold War and for the geopolitical confrontations that were
going on during that period, that large numbers of their
nationals had, therefore, left, seeking safety in the United
States, and had been now in the United States for in many cases
many years -- that the disruption in the near turn that would
come with return of large numbers of those people concerned them
a great deal both from the standpoint of the humanitarian issues
of disrupting the lives of people who had planted roots in the
United States and also from the standpoint of the economic effect
on the countries themselves because these people provide
remittances that are very important to the economies of Nicaragua
and El Salvador. And in the case of El Salvador in particular ,
the President talked about the severe difficulty that there would
be in jobs being available for those people if they returned.
Q What kind of numbers are you talking about,
Central Americans who may have come during the war years, versus
any other numbers of people who have come to the United States,
legally or otherwise?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Well, there are all kinds of
numbers that are being talked about. There actually was no
discussion of actual numbers this morning among the --
Q Do you think the vast majority of those who
came from Central America came because of the war situation?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: I think it's fair to say
that the people that came in the '80s from Central America came
largely -- overwhelmingly, because they were fleeing civil unrest
Q Can you give us a ballpark number on that, how
many people we're talking about?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: I don't think anybody really
knows. The numbers that we are working with are basically
somewhere in the neighborhoods of 300,000-plus as among all of
those nationalities, that we --
Q Of Central Americans?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Of Central Americans. And
we break it down basically somewhere in the neighborhood of about
150,000 Salvadorans, about 100,000 Guatemalans and about 40,000
Nicaraguans. So somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000-plus.
But as I say, there are many -- those are good numbers from the
standpoint of the Immigration Service, but lots of numbers have
been thrown around.
Anyway, let me just finish and then we'll do
So that what the President answered was, in the
first place, to clearly demonstrate to them an understanding of
the problem. He made very, very clear that the immigration law
that was enacted last year was an important law for the United
States. We are a nation of immigrants, we want to maintain our
tradition as a nation of immigrants. In order to do that, we
have to be able to control illegal immigration better.
At the same time, these are people who have come for
some period of time, and he recognized that there was both a
humanitarian issue where they and their families were concerned,
as well as a broader economic issue for these countries. He said
that -- he repeated for them what we have told them all along:
we will not engage in mass deportations, we will adjudicate these
cases on a case-by-case basis, that we are suspending -- that we
are holding off until the 1st of October actually implementing a
deadline which creates a cap of 4,000 cases on a particular group
of hardship decisions that can be made -- it's a provision called
suspension of deportation -- and that we will be working with the
Congress between now and October 1, during this period, to see
whether there are some ways of achieving some flexibility.
Q Could you explain the suspension of deportation
thing? I'm not clear on how that works.
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Well, there is a provision
by which people can apply for what's called suspension of
deportation; in other words, deportation is suspended if
immigration judges grant it. And that's a provision that many
Salvadorans and Nicaraguans and Guatemalans have in fact filed
for. In the case of Salvadorans and Guatemalans it's
particularly pertinent because it was part of a lawsuit that was
settled in their behalf called "the ABC lawsuit." They were
allowed to apply for asylum again and if they didn't achieve it,
there was this other avenue of relief. That has been severely
curtailed under this new law, and it's something that the
administration is working with the Congress to try to modify to
Q -- suspending it, so you're actually suspending
it until October 1?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Yes, we're doing that as a
regulatory matter. In other words, the Congress put a cap of
4,000 on the numbers of these that could be granted, but there
were some timing difficulties in the way the statute was written,
and we basically, in order to actually implement it effectively,
we're going to begin to implement it on October 1st. That gives
a little time for some further discussion on these issues.
Q Did these leaders ask you to give legal status
to this group, or to give amnesty to this group?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Yes.
Q What was your response?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: The Salvadoran President
did suggest -- did make the proposal for an amnesty. The
President did not answer that point directly. The President
answered as I suggested to you.
MR. STEINBERG: It was the Nicaraguan President.
The President of Nicaragua who asked for --
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Let's check our notes.
We'll check our notes.
Q And what exactly did he ask for and what was
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: At the end of his remarks
he suggested that one way of dealing with this might be an
amnesty. As I said, the President did not answer that point
directly. The President answered in the way that I described to
you. In other words, the President -- I'm not trying to avoid
you, Mark, I'm just --
Q My irritation wasn't with you.
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: I'm sorry. Sometimes it
is. (Laughter.) I mean, he answered as I said, you know, case
by case, no deportations, we'll be working with Congress on the
suspension provisions. He didn't address the question of
Q What does it really mean to say that you're
going to work with Congress on this? I mean, Congress seems an
unlikely place to find the kind of compassion that the President
pledged today. I mean, why is this not simply a finesse? If the
law is enforced at all, it's going to mean thousands or tens of
thousands of deportations, isn't it?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Well, let me just -- there
are some numbers here that are really very instructive. But what
it means to work with the Congress is that when you enact an
enormously complex law like this with lots of different
provisions in it, there are sometimes things that haven't been
fully thought through. And in this particular set of provisions,
there are some timing issues which don't work properly from the
standpoint of trying to implement them and there are some
unattended consequences which -- I'm not sure that the entire
Congress fully appreciated.
So we've been in discussions, as we are on all the
provisions of the law as we write the regulations. We're in
discussion with the committees and with the committee staffs to
be sure of what they intended and how we are interpreting the
law. And this is one of those where we are making some
suggestions on ways that could rationalize it.
Q But in the meantime, if I could follow up, will
you hold back on any action? Will you not begin deportations
until these consultations are finished?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Our normal enforcement
operations will continue. They continue as we speak. I mean, we
focus on deporting criminal aliens, we enforce the law in
workplaces. But this particular provision that has a cap of
4,000 on the numbers of people who are granted suspension of
deportation, we will hold off actually implementing those
removals until the first of October.
Q If you say no mass deportations in the short
run, but assume that nothing happens in Congress and you enact
the law on October 1st --
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: And we begin to implement
Q At what points do we begin to see mass
deportations which the law calls for?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Generally, when people talk
about mass deportations they are envisioning wholesale roundups
and group returns. That is not what we're involved in here.
There is no question that this law contemplated a reduced level
of illegal residents in the United States, and that is our
responsibility to implement and we are implementing it and will
continue to implement it. As I say, this provision that we're
talking about is only one part of a full range of activities.
But it is certainly the case that the level of removals from the
United States will steadily increase.
Q Okay, but I still don't hear -- what we need is
a number. You've got a 4,000-person cap, you've got 300,000
people, are we talking tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands
and in what span of time?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: This is a steady buildup
from year to year. Let me just help you out here a little bit.
Let's just take -- let's take some of these key countries, or
take the whole region. The countries that we're talking about
last year, legal immigration from the countries in the region
that we're talking about last year was 81,000. Last year we
returned about 9,700 people to the region. So the net flow
remains a positive flow of about 72,000. We are not yet at a
point where we have the capability to do a one-to-one return and
it all is a case-by-case adjudication.
Q I understand that, but what I'm saying is I'm a
Nicaraguan in Miami or a Salvadoran in Los Angeles, I'm not
particularly concerned about the number of my countrymen that are
coming to the United States. What I want to know is do I have to
leave and, under this law, when do I have to leave?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: That's exactly right and
that's what the Central American countries are registering
concern about. As I said, we recognize that this law is
attempting to return larger numbers of people over time, but one
particularly provision -- the suspension of deportation provision
-- is one that we believe has unintended consequences and we want
to see whether there are some modifications that can be put into
Q What specific modifications will you be
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: I think we need to complete
our congressional work on this before we get more detailed.
Q Commissioner Meissner, did the President draw
this parallel to the Central American situation with the South
Vietnamese situation in '75 in his meetings with the leaders?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: He did make a reference to
Vietnam from the standpoint of the humanitarian tradition of the
United States and of the concern that he expressed or the
compassion that he expressed with those circumstances of the
people who left Central America during those years.
I think that what really happened here is that the
position that the President presented is the position that we
have been discussing at the working level with the Central
American countries and with others for quite some time. But it
makes a big difference when the President of the United States
talks to other Presidents and is able to convey his understanding
of it and his concern with it and his commitment to try to work
with it as humanely as possible, consistent with the fact that
this is a law overall that we endorse.
Q You mentioned unintended consequences of the
law before. Was the President really aware of the cap when he
signed the bill, and, if so, why did he sign it?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: The cap was in the bill.
Obviously, we were aware of it when the President signed it. As
he has said, it is a big bill that has many provisions in it that
the administration supported. I think in the case of this
particular provision nobody fully appreciated at that time quite
how -- what the implications of it were. And as we go through it
and begin to write the regulations and begin to understand what
it will mean to implement it, some of these things become
Q Does the INS have any idea of the number of
illegal immigrants from these countries that are in the United
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Well, the number of illegal
immigrants form these countries in the United States is a
different number from the number of people that might be affected
by these particular provisions that we're talking about. So, in
the case of these particular provisions that we're talking about,
we believe the number of people that could be affected is
somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000. We do not have the
capacity to remove those people all at one time. We would be
gradually working --
Q But my question, the other part, these are the
people affected under these special rules -- how about the legal
immigrants who are there -- do you all have any idea how many
hundreds of thousands are there?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: We believe that there are
about 5 million people in the United States illegally. I can
give you a nationality breakdown on that; I don't have it right
here with me.
Q Commissioner, if I could take you back to my
colleague's question once again. In the case of the welfare
reform bill, the President signed that knowing there were parts
he didn't agree with and hoping that he could change them. In
the case of this bill, is it that he thought he'd be able to deal
with the unintended consequences, or that he did not realize the
size of the problem, the magnitude of the problem?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: I think it's a mixture.
There were things in the immigration bill that we opposed at the
time. One of them we talked about a day or two ago in Mexico,
which has to do with people's ability to adjust their status in
the United States.
On this particular provision I -- this is one where
we've come to understand much more clearly as we've tried to
grapple with the regulations exactly how complex it is and
exactly what the consequences would be. So I think this is one
where the understanding has evolved in the interim.
Q Ms. Meissner, if the President hadn't delayed
implementation of this until the end of September, when would it
have taken effect?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: It would have begun to take
effect April 1.
Q And when did you take that action to delay it?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: We actually are about to
publish regulations on that point in the next couple of weeks,
but we've been in discussion with the relevant committees about
Q Commissioner, after the press conference the
President of El Salvador, Mr. Calderon Sol, said that the amnesty
proposal had been brought up in the meeting, and he quoted
President Clinton -- paraphrasing him -- at this moment we don't
have any real possibility of doing that; the Congress won't
accept it. What you said before would seem to suggest that's not
really an accurate --
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: I don't recall that having
been said. I don't have that in my notes.
Q Commissioner Meissner, would you accept if you
think you could reach a deal with Congress in which you legalized
these people, but took the numbers from the numbers -- for the
brothers and sisters category or the spouses and children
category, could you do that -- reduce the overall level of legal
immigration by those number of visas?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: There are a number of things
that are being talked about, but I really don't want to speculate
Q Commissioner, would the problem you're talking
about be solved by lifting -- raising the cap to a higher number?
Or are you talking about eliminating the cap altogether?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Again, I really would like
the really important thing here is that we be able to come to a
consensus on this in a way that works, and I don't want to
Q And the reason you don't envision massive
deportations is because you don't think you could go out and
round those people up and you don't think they'll come in and
volunteer to be removed? Is that right?
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Well, as you know, we're
increasing our deportations all the time and will continue to do
deportations. But we don't -- we certainly don't have the
capacity to go and locate all of these people and put them into
proceedings and remove them within a year.
MR. MCCURRY: This will be the last one here.
Q Even if the President didn't say what he was
just quoted here saying, is that an assessment that you believe
is true, that it's not realistic, that Congress won't accept an
COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: I would say that it's not
the administration's position to seek an amnesty. We believe
this law is a good law and, by and large, we think it is workable
and it is consistent with what the administration has been
attempting to do for the last four years. There are some
provisions that we want to work on.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, anything else on other aspects
of the summit? Any of the communiques?
Q Yes, the tariffs. Can you tell us what kind of
goods might be subject to tariffs?
MS. BRAINERD: Yes. The enhancement of the
Caribbean Basin that is being proposed would extend preferential
tariff treatment comparable to that enjoyed by Mexico to products
-- a handful of products, really, which include such things as
tuna, some leather goods and apparel.
Q What about electronic?
MS. BRAINERD: Electronics already enjoy
preferential access into the U.S. from the Caribbean Basin
countries comparable to that enjoyed by Mexico.
Q Would that be all apparel, including the
machina -- industries they have down here?
MS. BRAINERD: Yes, it pertains to a whole variety
of categories of apparel, some of which will include these
processing kinds of operations.
Q On open skies, you're still working on Belize
and the Dominican Republic, they just weren't ready in time? Is
MS. BRAINERD: Yes. Belize and the Dominican
Republic I think we're very optimistic about. It simply was --
we did this in a very short period of time and we still have some
pieces to work out, but I think we're very optimistic that we'll
get them done shortly.
Q You mentioned this is the first Central
American summit in how many years -- how was Bush's visit here
different? That was a different type of meeting, or what's the
MR. MCCURRY: Geoff, do you want to do the history
MR. PYATT: As I understand it, the '89 meeting was
a meeting which the Costa Rican government hosted to celebrate
the anniversary of their democracy and it had participants from
throughout Latin America. It was not a Central American summit.
The last time we convoked the Central American leaders or the
President met with the Central American leaders was 1968.
Q While you're up there, did you ever get
straight which President asked for amnesty?
MR. MCCURRY: No. It was Calderon Sol? Calderon
Sol, although clearly President Reina also spoke on that issue as
Q Did the President say that the money for
deferring the cost of these tariff reductions was in the budget
agreement? And, if so, what is the dollar amount?
MR. MCCURRY: It is, and it's $2 billion over five
years. Two billion over five years, and it's in the FY '98
Q What was the question?
MR. MCCURRY: The amount of the CBI enhancement as
proposed in the FY '98 budget. This is, by the way, the news
that we intended to make on Saturday, just so you know.
Q Where was Panama?
MR. MCCURRY: Panama was effectively implementing
the Panama Canal Treaty and dealing with issues related to the
new stature of the zone. What is the --
Q Why is Panama not --
MR. PYATT: They were invited to join and they chose
-- they declined --
Q Did they say why?
MR. PYATT: They did not specifically say. They
thanked us for the invitation.
Q What's the problem? They've already got the
MR. PYATT: They haven't historically been part of
the Central American common market or the Central American
immigration process. They see their fate as being more
determined by -- as Panama by itself, and they're less inclined
to hook themselves up with the rest of Central America.
Q Okay. I'm sorry, I'm having trouble hearing.
The $2 billion was in President Clinton's budget?
MR. MCCURRY: FY '98 budget proposal for the
enhancement of this CBI over five years. That was in the five
year window -- $2 billion over the five year window.
Q -- when you say "apparel," does that mean
textiles as well?
MR. MCCURRY: It was a clever --
MS. BRAINERD: It's a broader definition.
MR. MCCURRY: It's a somewhat broader definition,
but the impacted industry and where a lot of the controversy has
arisen domestically is obviously textiles.
Q Mike, when the President said that Central
American refugees who had fled the violence to the United States
should be in a special category, does he have anything specific
MR. MCCURRY: He is referring to existing laws
Commissioner Meissner just articulated. There is a category, the
300,000 we were talking about, for which that is a special
Q -- understand your answer -- sorry -- so is it
textiles and apparel or is it --
MR. MCCURRY: It's a broader definition, but it
Q Mike, are there likely to be any domestic
losers in this move?
MR. MCCURRY: In?
Q In the lowering of tariffs, for instance,
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are net gains over time.
Are there individual people who become affected by free trade
agreements? Yes, which is why we have things like the Trade
Adjustments Assistance program. But net over time we see
expanded economies, we see the kind of economic and regional
growth that expands economies and opportunities, and, as the
President pointed out today, creates jobs that are in higher
paying sectors in which we have comparative advantage, which is
the whole rationale for pressing ahead so aggressively with a
free trade program.
Q Does the President intend to veto this House
juvenile criminal control act --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're very disappointed, as our
statement indicates, in the action by the House. We think we've
got a much more effective approach on juvenile crime prevention.
We've articulated that in the strategy we've put forth and we're
going to fight hard for our strategy. We think over time we'll
be able to win the case on the merits of our argument.
Q Is Clinton going to ask the Swiss to reopen the
treaty that -- the 1946 treaty that they're clearly in violation
MR. MCCURRY: The President -- just a moment on the
-- this happened yesterday, we didn't get much of a chance to
talk about it. The President was very pleased with the work done
by the State Department in response to his directive to open up
the historical record on questions related to Nazi acquisition
and expropriation of gold and, particularly, the impact of the
Holocaust on exactly that question.
The State Department's Office of the Historian -- a
wonderful guy named Bill Slaney, who I think is one of the real
jewels in our bureaucracy -- the Office of Historian at the State
Department, did a remarkable job with the assistance of 11
agencies in pulling together that report. The President has a
very keen interest in what we do now to pursue additional facts
and additional disclosure based on what we see as this slice of
the historical record. There are things that we believe the
government of Switzerland can do and will do, and there's been
some indication already that they are inclined to themselves open
up some of their own documentation and records. And we will
consider other ways in which we can learn more, understand more
about the nature of this tragic historical record.
Q Are you ruling out the idea of asking them to
return some of the money, or all of it?
MR. MCCURRY: The proper way to -- we're going to
have to work carefully to understand the consequences of this
report. I think understanding the truth is the first step
towards seeking a remedy and we're not at the point yet where we
can even fully comprehend the report. We're going to let that
settle, see what the response is, see what additional historical
record can be established and then determine how to proceed.
Let me do one other thing. I think that we
announced earlier -- and I just want to talk a minute about the
three commencement addresses the President will deliver this
year. The President on Sunday, May 18th, will deliver the
commencement address at Morgan State up in Baltimore. He will
deliver his -- every year the President speaks at the
commencement of one of the service academies and he'll speak at
West Point on Saturday, May 31st. And he will speak at the
University of California-San Diego on Saturday, June 14th.
Let me talk for a minute about these three
commencement speeches, because interestingly they were all built
around one theme, which is preparing America for the 21st
century; but will speak to that proposition in three very
different and interesting ways. The first speech, at Morgan
State, will focus on science and technology. It will reflect on
some of the miracles of modern science and technology that you've
heard the President talk about anecdotally over the last several
He'll also talk about some of the ethical dilemmas
that scientific improvement and technological improvement
produced in this world, talking a bit about things as diverse as
the implications of computer technology with respect to free
speech, some of the recent discussions of bioethical issues with
respect to cloning. But really sort of a philosophical speech
about science and technology and its impact on our culture and
our humanity as we think of the future.
The second speech at West Point, in a different way,
will talk about America preparing for a new world in the 21st
century in which we really have to think clearly about American
responsibility in the world. This will be a speech that he gives
two days after delivering a major speech in Europe at The Hague
at the time of the U.S.-EU summit. And so, in a sense, that
speech is a mirror image of the speech that he will make to the
people of Europe about the rationale for America's continued
engagement in Europe and the expansion of NATO specifically.
He'll come two days later to West Point and make the
same argument to the American people about why it's manifestly in
the interests of the people of the United States to remain
engaged in Europe and to look ahead to a united democratic Europe
free of conflict all the way from the United Kingdom to the
The last speech, at the University of California at
San Diego, will talk more in a spiritual and maybe even emotional
way about an issue that is very directly connected to what most
of this briefing has been about today, the diversity of the
American people. And he will speak specifically to the scar that
racial prejudice and bigotry has made in our own political
culture and in our own history. He'll talk specifically about
how we can reconcile antagonisms between races and bring people
together in one America to celebrate our diversity and use our
diversity to make progress together as one people in the 21st
Three speeches, a single theme about America rising
to and responding to the challenges of the 21st century, doing so
first with the most obvious and important challenge, responding
to the new global information age and how Americans can
personally and collectively respond to the issues we face based
on science, technology, and the improvement of our ability to
understand and absorb information.
Second, how we can respond to the challenges we face
in this world that is growing more interdependent because of the
global information age. And third, how do we use the incredible
diversity that is America to give us a competitive in that world,
and the primary challenge with respect to using diversity
positively is to overcome instances in the past in which
diversity has been a blemish on our own history -- race being the
obvious point there.
Q I missed the word on the U-Cal speech --
MR. MCCURRY: No, no UC-San Diego. University of
California at San Diego, UCSD.
Q What was that date?
MR. MCCURRY: That's June 14th.
Q You said the what and racial and ethnic bigotry
MR. MCCURRY: The scar.
Q The scar, I'm sorry, thank you.
Q A somewhat lighter question. The President has
peppered his speeches here and in Mexico with a few Spanish
remarks. Does he have someone who is coaching in those Spanish
phrases, or how does he arrive at those?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He does, as a way of respecting
-- expressing some respect to foreign cultures, he very often
tries to use a phrase from the indigenous language when he's
travelling. That's not an unusual thing, and he has had -- a
couple people have written things in the speeches for him.
Q Mike, Attorney General Reno today confirmed
that the Justice Department is investigating the possibility of a
high-level Israeli spy in the U.S. government. How is it going
to impact relations with Israel at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: No comment on that subject.
Anything else today?
Q Mike, anything new about the fate of President
Mobutu, and his intentions?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing beyond what we have already
said in the past. Ambassador Richardson has made clear our
principles with respect to the future of Zaire and they center
around a transition to a new structure that will respond to the
needs and the aspirations of the people of Zaire. That clearly
should be a transitional process that leads to new elections and
our views on the rule of Mobutu I think have been made fairly
clear. I don't want to speculate about his future at this moment
which he is no doubt contemplating his own course.
Q Just on a personal note, can you tell us if the
President's enjoying the trip, is he homesick, does he miss
MR. MCCURRY: Miss Washington? You haven't been
following what's been going on up there? No, he's having a very
good time. He's been very -- today he talked a lot about how
interesting the personal stories are of all these leaders that
he's seen. In a way, they are a microcosm of the change that has
occurred in this region, and the personal histories of each of
these leaders and what they have gone through and what they've
struggled with and what they have overcome as they've built a new
Central America based on democracy and market economics as
opposed to authoritarianism and military rule and military
conflict, this is truly extraordinary, and their own personal
stories are very compelling.
He's enjoyed the dialogue with them, there have been
lots of moments in which he has engaged in personal conversation
with each of them. I think you saw a little bit of that
reflected at the press conference. He's very much looking
forward to the trip tomorrow because both that excursion and the
one in Mexico yesterday are something the President feels like he
doesn't get enough opportunities to do, to actually go out and
see something about the countries that he's visiting, so he's
been happy that the schedule has accommodated that.
He's been getting a regular update on things going
on. Back home, by the way, for wire purposes he has been told
about the chemical plant explosion in Arkansas. Obviously, he's
very concerned about that. He knows the facility itself. Bruce
Lindsey, in fact, was very -- knew exactly the bypass that this
facility is located at and knew the hospital that has apparently
been evacuated. So Bruce has been in touch -- was going to try
to be in touch with people in Arkansas and get more information
for the President, because he'll be concerned about that.
So he's been following things back at home, but
fully absorbed in the details of this trip. He's obviously very,
very pleased with the response in Mexico to his trip there. That
was a very important moment in U.S.-Mexican relations and the way
in which he was received in Mexico and the commentary and
discussion about that trip and what it means for the long-term
future of our relations with Mexico is very significant and the
President feels quite satisfied with that outcome.
I think what's happened here today with the personal
engagement of the President and these leaders is profoundly
important as we structure a new relationship with Central
America. You heard Steinberg say a minute ago that we really are
entering an era in which -- we've got the possibility to
establish a whole new way of dealing with these countries and a
whole new mechanism for conducting our diplomacy, and some of
that begins to emerge from the discussions the Attorney General
will now have related to law enforcement, that our labor
ministers will have on worker rights issues, that our trade
ministers will have through the new council that's been
We're putting a much more formal structure into the
diplomacy we do in this region, and that's a very exciting thing.
The President -- some people have said, why did it take you so
long to get down here -- I think the President in some way shares
that sentiment, that there is a lot going on in this region, in
this hemisphere that excites him. He's said several times now
how much he looks forward to the additional trips that he'll be
taking here both later this year and then leading up to Santiago
for the next Summit of the Americas.
Q Did we get clarification on which President had
asked for amnesty?
MR. MCCURRY: The consensus after debate here was,
it was President Calderon Sol.
Q Of El Salvador.
MR. MCCURRY: El Salvador.
Q And also, how much would the U.S. spend on this
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q I thought it was Nicaragua -- that he chimed
MR. MCCURRY: President Reina also talked about that
issue, but they think amnesty itself was put in place by Calderon
Sol. That's what they --
Q Is there a number attached to the international
law enforcement academy -- how much would we spend?
MR. MCCURRY: As our fact sheet said, there are
several million dollars that are contained in our budget that
would allow for that. I don't know that there is a specific
figure; I'd have to go look and see. But the material that we've
got indicated there were several million dollars set aside in our
budget proposal that would accommodate the creation of that
Anything else in the world? We are hoping to have
an embargoed text of the President's toasts tonight. To my
knowledge, that's the only real remaining thing that's out there
tonight. And with that we intend to call it quits for the day.
So, given that it's getting late back on the East Coast, you
should have a pretty free and clear evening. Right, Mary Ellen?
(Laughter.) Pretty free and clear evening if we can get the
Okay, good. See you.
President Clinton's Tour of Mexico, Costa Rica,