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William J. Clinton: Press Briefing by Attorney General Janet Reno, General John Sheehan, Commander In Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff
William
William J. Clinton
Press Briefing by Attorney General Janet Reno, General John Sheehan, Commander In Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff
May 2, 1995
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12:15 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. As you know, we're here to discuss some matters related to Cuban migration policy. But I know a lot of you have got interest in the Oklahoma City investigation. For that reason, I've asked the Attorney General to start with just a very brief statement on that subject. She's not in a position to take many questions. We will then move on to the Cuban migration discussion.

Attorney General.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: At approximately 6:45 a.m. this morning, the FBI arrested Robert Jacks and Gary Land in Carthage, Missouri based on material witness warrants issued by a magistrate judge in Oklahoma, based on probable cause to believe that they possessed information concerning the April 19, 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City. The arrest occurred without incident. Jacks and Land are cooperating with the FBI in the investigation, and have agreed to be interviewed and provided consent to search their property. The investigation is continuing.

Also today, at the request of Director Freeh, I have approved his appointment, Larry Potts as the Director of the FBI. Director Freeh's recommendation was based on Mr. Potts's long and distinguished career in law enforcement and the confidence the Director has in him.

Director Freeh has described Mr. Potts as the very best the FBI has. Mr. Potts has been directing the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the results to date are a tribute to his ability to coordinate a complex, nationwide, multi-agency investigation.

Q: How did you find those guys?

Q: Madam Attorney General, are these two considered suspects in the bombing?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I would not comment and I would ask everyone to let the investigation proceed and not jump to conclusions.

Q: Well, is either believed to be John Doe II?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, I would not comment and would reiterate my concern.

Q: General Reno, is the search --

Q: Can you tell us how they were discovered, how you found them? Could you tell us how you found them? Did they give themselves up, or did you get an informant tip, or how were they discovered?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, as I have told you all, it's just not right for me to comment on how the investigation is conducted, what leads us to a certain point, because that can only lead to an interruption of the investigation, and I know we want to have it proceed as --

Q: In other words, you're not going to say anything? (Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I have told you again and again that I don't comment on pending investigations, because I think --

Q: Ma'am can you tell us please why Potts was named and what's the reason -- and the head of -- the Assistant Director of FBI --

Q: Could you tell us how the search for John Doe II is proceeding?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, as I have said before, we are following every lead, and there are many. The people of this country are cooperating in an extraordinary fashion, and the investigation is proceeding.

Q: And you're looking for others, are you?

Q: Are there other suspects that you are still looking for at this point?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think it's fair to say that we're following every lead with respect to any information that would lead us to anybody responsible for this bombing.

Q: Ms. Reno, could you talk about the death threats you've been getting?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's about all. We want to move on.

Q: Well, I think she might answer my question, which was fully on the floor. I want to know why Mr. Potts's named and have we had a man like this designated in the FBI before and what's the reason for this?

ATTORNEY GENERAL: As Director Freeh has said, he appointed Mr. Potts as the Deputy Director of the FBI based on his very distinguished career in law enforcement. Larry Potts is an extraordinary agent, a dedicated law enforcement official. He has been the person responsible in this instance for the day-to-day operation of the Oklahoma City investigation, and I think it has been a landmark for law enforcement efforts.

Q: Ms. Reno, can you talk about the death threats?

MR. MCCURRY: Okay, we're going to move on now to the subject of Cuba. At this hour, the United States and the Republic of Cuba are releasing a joint statement on agreements that they have reached to regularize further their migration relationship. That's what our cast here is to talk about. I'm going to ask Attorney General Reno to open with a statement on that. We will have a copy of the joint statement that we are issuing along with the Republic of Cuba. That will be available to you at the conclusion of the briefing.

Attorney General Reno will speak and then I've also asked General John Sheehan, who is the Commander In Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, to talk a little bit about Guantanamo Bay and some aspects of the migration agreement. We also have Doris Meissner, the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Admiral Kramek, who is the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Peter Tarnoff, who is here as well. And they're available as you might have any questions related to the agreement that we discussed today. So I'll start again with Attorney General Reno.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: It has long been the policy of the United States that Cubans who wish to migrate to the United States should do so by legal means. The U.S. interest section in Havana accepts and processes requests for visas, and it also operates an in-country program for those Cubans who seek refugee status for entry into the United States.

Pursuant to this policy, last August I announced that Cubans attempting a regular means of migration to the United States on boats and rafts would not be allowed to enter this country, but, rather, would be brought to the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay where they would be offered safe haven.

Last September, following negotiations with representatives of the Cuban government, the United States announced that it would increase Cuban migration to the United States to permit 20,000 legal entrants per year. This program, which includes immigrant visas, refugee applications and a special Cuban migration program designed to broaden the pool of potential entrants, is on target, and we expect to continue Cuban legal migration at this level in the years to come. This year alone, we expect to bring 7,000 Cuban refugees to the United States through our in-country program in Havana.

The United States is now prepared to make another important step towards regularizing Cuban migration between Cuba and the United States. First, with respect to Guantanamo, we will continue to bring to the United States those persons who are eligible for special humanitarian parole under the guidelines announced by the President last October and December.

The government of Cuba has agreed to accept all Cuban nationals in Guantanamo who wish to return home, as well as persons who have previously been deported from the United States and persons who would be ineligible for admission to the United States because of criminal record, medical, physical or mental condition, or commission of acts of violence while at Guantanamo.

All other Cubans in the safe haven will be admitted into the United States on a case-by-case basis as special Guantanamo entrants, bearing in mind the impact of paroles on state and local economies and the need for adequate sponsorships. As has been true for all Cubans and Haitians previously paroled into the United States from Guantanamo, sponsorship and resettlement assistance will be obtained prior to entry. The number of these special Guantanamo entrants admitted to the United States will be credited against the 20,000 annual Cuban migration figure. Thus, there will be no net increase in Cuban migration.

Effective immediately, Cuban migrants intercepted at sea, attempting to enter the United States or who enter Guantanamo illegally will be taken to Cuba where U.S. consular officers will assist those who wish to apply to come to the United States through already-established mechanisms. Cubans must know that the only way to come to the United States is by applying in Cuba.

All returnees will be permitted to apply for refugee status at the U.S. interest section in Havana. Cuba is one of only three countries in the world in which the United States conducts incountry processing for refugees. The government of Cuba has committed to the government of the United States that no one will suffer reprisals, lose benefits or be prejudiced in any manner, either because he or she sought to depart irregularly, or because he or she has applied for refugee status at the United States interest section.

The Cuban government made a similar commitment in the context of the September, 1994 agreement and we are satisfied that it has been honored. Moreover, the government of Cuba will permit monitoring by U.S. consular officers of the treatment of all returnees.

Migrants intercepted at sea or in Guantanamo will be advised that they will be taken back to Cuba where U.S. consular officials will meet them at the dock and assist those who wish to apply for refugee admission to the United States at the interest section in Havana. They will be told that the government of Cuba has provided a commitment to the United States government that they will suffer no adverse consequences or reprisals of any sort, and that U.S. consular officers will monitor their treatment. they will also be told that those persons who seek resettlement in the United States as refugees must use the in-country refugee program.

Measures will be taken to ensure that persons who claim a genuine need for protection which they believe cannot be satisfied by applying at the U.S. interest section will be examined before return. Cubans who reach the United States through irregular means will be placed in exclusion proceedings and treated as are all illegal migrants from other countries, including giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum.

The United States government reiterates its opposition to the use of violence in connection with departure from Cuba and its determination to prosecute cases of hijacking and alien smuggling.

These new procedures represent another step towards regularizing migration procedures with Cuba, finding a humanitarian solution to the situation at Guantanamo and preventing another uncontrolled and dangerous outflow from Cuba.

I want to make clear that the United States policy towards Cuba remains the same. We remain committed to the Cuban Democracy Act and its central goal -- promoting a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba. We will continue to enforce the economic embargo to pressure the Cuban regime to reform.

We will continue to reach out to the Cuban people through private humanitarian assistance and through the free flow of ideas and information to strengthen Cuba's fledgling civil society. And we remain ready to respond in carefully calibrated ways to meaningful steps towards political and economic reform in Cuba.

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Thank you very much. I would like to applaud the effort on the part of the Attorney General to regularize this process for three very simple reasons -- first, the safety of the 6,000 American servicemen that are serving in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As you know, we were moving down a trail where there was distinct possibility of some of those servicemen and some of those Cubans being hurt.

Second, from a military perspective, it's costing us $1 million a day to run the camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That money now can be turned -- and once we return these servicemen back to the parent units, back into the readiness accounts and we can start plussing up the readiness capability to military forces. In addition to that, we're about ready to spend $100 million to make the camps more permanent, and so all of these collective things, I think, go, and I would like to truly applaud the efforts on the part of the Attorney General to regularize this process.

MR. MCCURRY: Let me just add one closing comment before we go to questions. In developing the approach that the administration has outlined today, we have consulted very closely with both Governor Chiles and with Senator Graham. And I must say that the President is grateful for the fact that they have both authorized the White House to indicate that they are fully supportive of the policy that we are reviewing today with you.

With that, let's go to questions and you can direct them anywhere.

Q: How about Senator Mack?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we will continue consultations. There have been consultations ongoing this morning with other members as well.

Q: Was this policy forced because it was about to blow up on Guantanamo?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: What we have tried to do from the beginning is regularize migration from Cuba so that anybody who came to this country came legally and safely. It was clear as we put the process into effect that it was beginning to work. We now have a track record since September of legal migration procedures working so that people can apply safely for refugee status. Over 6,000 have been determined to be refugees; 800 have all ready been brought to this country; and I think people can understand that legal migration does work.

At the same --

Q: That's not an answer to my question. The General indicated safety --

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: You asked what prompted this, and I'm --

Q: No, I didn't ask what prompted it. He indicated there was a safety problem.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Well, I'm telling you what prompted the particular change. Seeing that worked, seeing however, that the migrants at Guantanamo had been dislocated, had lost their jobs, had not been able to watch firsthand how it was working, I think that this represents a humanitarian way to address the issue while putting everybody on notice that legal migration processes are working and that they will be utilized.

Q: Well, General, you said that any Cubans who tried to leave Cuba now must do so through the Cuban interest section, will be intercepted at sea and brought back to Cuba. But you were equally as firm last summer, as was the President, in saying that this is not the way to get to the United States and that those who were in Guantanamo would never be admitted to the United States. Why should anybody in Cuba believe the new policy when the old policy was reversed?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: One of the things that we have tried to do in this whole process is avert a mass migration to this country and to avoid a tremendous outflow of illegal immigrants. What we did then was to put into place a system that we knew worked. Obviously, it was not that convincing to those at Guantanamo, but it has been convincing to people in Havana, in Cuba who can see that it's worked and who are utilizing those processes now. We think that this is the best way to move forward to further regularize migration from Cuba.

Q: General, how long would you anticipate this will take? You said all of those there now would be eligible, but you said on a case-by-case basis. Which is it?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Not all. Those with --

Q: I understand. All who qualify, but -- but basically, you've got a large number of people --

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: What we want to do is to admit those that are not excludable that don't have criminal histories. We want to admit them in an orderly way based on appropriate sponsorships, based on concern for the community that they're going to. What we have been doing to date is paroling in on a humanitarian basis the children and their families at roughly 500 a week, and I would expect that rate would continue.

Q: That it would continue to be 500 a week until you've emptied the compound there at Guantanamo? Is that the --

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, what we want to do -- it may be that, or it may be as we formulate it and see just what's involved, that we can speed it up, but we want to make sure that it's done in an orderly way.

Q: Can the General tell us a question, please? You said, sir, I believe I understood you to say that you were going to spend $100 million making permanent the camps down there?

GENERAL SHEEHAN: That's correct.

Q: Well, if you're taking these people away from there and back to Cuba, why do you need to spend $100 million on camps if it was already perfect there?

GENERAL SHEEHAN: What I said was that this act, on the part of regularizing the process has averted that $100 million that we can use now to put back into the readiness O & M accounts so the readiness of the forces will not suffer as a result of this housing migrants.

Q: Yes, but you said you were going to spend $100 million on making permanent the camps.

Q: No, no, no.

GENERAL SHEEHAN: No. What I said was, it averts that $100 million cost.

Q: General, how explosive was the situation in the camps there? You alluded to that at --

GENERAL SHEEHAN: I think the Attorney General has a right. This is a process of a lot of dynamics. There are 6,000 people in the camps right now who are in the process of coming into the United States at a rate that the Attorney General has spoken about. As we saw this summer going down and the protocols ran out, where there was no exit strategy for the camps; then clearly, the frustration level on the camps was going to be very high. These were essentially young males, 15 to 32 years old, very, very talented people.

I think that you need to understand that better than 50 percent of these kids are high school graduates, but nine percent of college degrees and two percent have graduate degrees. There are 127 doctors in the camps; but, yet, if there's no exit strategy for them, they're frustrated.

Q: But how did you see that frustration become manifested?

GENERAL SHEEHAN: It's manifested itself twice in Guantanamo previously and once in Panama when the Cubans who were there thought they were going to be -- end up in a permanent internment process.

Q: So there is a threat of violence. Is that what you're saying?

GENERAL SHEEHAN: There is always a threat of violence in that type of situation. I would call it civil disturbance as opposed to violence, but there is some violence probability, yes.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how this was negotiated, who did the negotiating for the U.S. and who did the negotiation for the Cubans?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: I think all I'd like to say is that this was negotiated through normal diplomatic channels and not go into the details of how the conversation was --

Q: Well, we don't really have such normal diplomatic relations with the Cubans.

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Yes, we do. We have a U.S. interest section in Havana, there is a Cuban interest section here, and we have regular migration talks, the last of which occurred, I think, a couple of weeks ago in New York.

Q: Was this, Mr. Tarnoff, negotiated in the context of those migration talks, or was this a separate, secret negotiation?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: I'd rather not go into the details of how this was actually conducted, because this was, again, done in diplomatic channels, but it certainly was consistent with the administration's policy decided last summer to be in touch with the Cubans on migration matters.

Q: Did anyone from the U.S. have a direct discussion with Fidel Castro?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: I'm not going to talk about the specifics of what the exchanges were, but I can say that what happened was fully consistent with and in the context of the migration talks that we've been having with the Cubans over the last nine years.

Q: Has Cuba been provided with any assurances that any of the sanctions added last August would be rolled back?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: None whatsoever.

Q: or, these sanctions would be eased in any way?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: None whatsoever.

Q: How about that the administration will oppose the Helms bill?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: The administration stated its position on the Helms-Burton legislation. At the end of last week, the State Department informed Chairman Gilman of the House International Relations Committee that, while we supported many of the objectives of the Helms-Burton draft legislation as we see it, namely the promotion of an acceleration of democracy in Cuba, the endorsement of the continued vigilance and reinforcement of the embargo, the other provisions of the Cuban Democracy Act, and also features of that bill which allow the United States to begin assistance to a transition government in Cuba, all of those we regard as quite positive. There are, nonetheless, certain other aspects of the bill, the extraterritoriality of it and other things which do causes problems, but we are available to have discussions with sponsors of the bill on the legislation.

Q: Mr. Secretary, does this agreement between the United States and Cuba improve the relationship between the two countries?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: I don't believe the overall relationship is affected. This is a narrow agreement on migration matters that is a direct result of the September 9, 1994 accord between us, and it's a natural extension from that, and limited to migration matters.

Q: To follow up, has there ever been a case where the United States has forcibly returned refugees to a communist country?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Well, let me talk to the Attorney General or the -- but we do have policies in other countries with respect to returning nationals to those countries.

Q: Has the U.S. ever returned forcibly any refugee to a communist country?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We are trying to make sure that our policy with respect to returns are consistent. As you have seen, there have been situations with respect to Chinese boats that have come within or near our shores, and we're trying to make sure that everybody understands that we need to address the problem through legal migration standards.

Q: Was there any agreement on the part of the Cubans to crack down on boat people?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: There was no agreement, other than the September agreement.

Q: A question for General Reno. How long have the Guantanamo Bay Cubans -- how long has the process of admitting them been going on? Do I understand that 500 a week --

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: As you will recall, the President, early on in October, noted that there were humanitarian cases of the elderly, of people who were ill, and we started addressing those acute humanitarian concerns. We all were concerned with the status of the children at Guantanamo, and in December the President made clear that we were going to try to review each case and bring in the children and their immediate families.

Q: But have you gone past those humanitarian concerns already?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: No. We are still bringing the children out in an orderly way, trying to do it -- and as a person reaches 70 or as a medical problem develops, we've tried to address those humanitarian concerns and will continue to do so. But when we reach the end of that group, then we will admit all others who are not excludable because of criminal records or other factors and bring them in, again in an orderly way, on a case-by-case basis.

Q: And how many would you think that will be?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We're going to start reviewing the whole process and be geared up to do it in as orderly a way as possible.

Q: How many Haitians are still in Guantanamo?

Q: How many will be coming into the U.S.? How many will go back to Cuba? Do you have any figures?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I wouldn't speculate on that. We'll just see as the process works out. But again, I would stress that it is not an increase that will not produce a net increase in legal migration from Cuba.

Q: Will Cuba continue to curb the exodus of migrants as they promised last September, or is that null and void now?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Cuba made that commitment last September, has honored that commitment, and every indication is that it will continue to honor that commitment.

Q: What do you mean --

Q: Does that mean that you will slow the influx of Cubans from Cuba, the legal migration to reward these people who fled their country and were taken to Guantanamo.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: What we've tried to do is address the issue of those who seek immigrant visas, those who have applied for refugee status, and even then, through the legal migration process there are others. We have then developed the special program for Cuba that establishes the lottery, and these would be part of the lottery, in effect.

Q: General Reno, where are these people going to end up, and who is going to pay for their relocation and for the rest of -- until they get settled?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We have worked with people in the community to develop sponsorships. The community relations service works with various groups to ensure proper sponsorship, works with families, and where they end up will depend on where families are located across this country.

Q: Do you expect them mostly, however, in Florida -- Miami area?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think Florida will certainly be a place that many of them seek to reside, and the community has pulled together in an extraordinary way in trying to develop sponsorships. They have worked closely with the community relations service in arranging for sponsorships for those people that are currently being brought in for humanitarian concerns.

Q: Will any federal resettlement funds be made available for these people?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: There are provisions now for Cuban Haitian resettlement, and we will work with the states as we try to work with all states to address the issue.

Q: Could you talk for a second? We understand you're under increased death threats -- numerous ones. Are you doing anything about it? Is it true? Can you talk at all about them?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I don't know. I'll let you talk to the FBI. I don't pay any attention to it.

Q: Secretary Tarnoff, if Cuba is a safe and democratic enough place to forcibly repatriate --

Q: General, what have you done to bring Governor Chiles and Senator Graham on board? They're obviously concerned about the effect on Florida of this influx. What steps have you taken to appease them?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We have worked with everybody concerned by our efforts beginning last summer to regularize migration from Cuba. What we have tried to avoid is a massive flow into South Florida in ways that could adversely affect the community, just in terms of a vast number of people coming in, in a short period of time. We have worked with the Governor, with the Senator in trying to address these problems and trying to make sure that what we do regularizes migration so that people can understand where they stand, that we do so in accordance with humanitarian interests and that we maintain an adherence to international migration policy, and I think we've been able to do it, and I appreciate both the Governor's and the Senator's great assistance in this effort.

Q: General Reno, what happened with the Haitians that are in Guantanamo now? Do you foresee any similar policy in the future for them?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: What we're doing right now with respect to the unaccompanied minors in Haiti, we worked with United States -- United Nations High Commission for Refugees. We asked them to become involved so that we could relocate the children based on what was in the best interest of the child. We are attempting to place them with their families in Haiti. Where families are not located, we're trying to see what is in the best interest. And so that we made sure we did everything consistent with international migration policy, we have been working with the U.N. High Commission on Refugee Status.

Q: How many Haitians are there in --

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I don't know the last number. A little over 400 the General tells me.

Q: General, Representative Tauzin from Louisiana says he has -- he thinks he has voluntary with the fertilizer industries to neutralize their product so it can't be used to make bombs. Does that sound like a good idea to you, or do you think we still may need the legislation, perhaps like Europe, so fertilizer cannot be used for bomb-making?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think what we need to do is what we have all ready initiated -- a thoughtful, good, bipartisan discussion on what needs to be done. The ATF will look at the situation -- I certainly think they would consider such legislation -- see what can be done to minimize the use of these otherwise legal products in terms of bomb manufacture.

Q: Attorney General Reno, you're talking about regularizing migration, why not regularize something else?

Q: What happened to your recommendation on easing -- lifting the -- sanctions, for instance?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Well, our policy has been consistent in support of the Cuban Democracy Act which involves strict monitoring of the embargo and pursuit of what is called Track 2, and that is programs of direct benefit to the Cuban people. And we are continually seeking to implement that, to find new ways to strengthen both parts of that.

But this migration agreement has nothing to do with that. It's a separate -- and I might add that the reason we have to conclude these migration agreements with Cuba is because Cuba is not a free society, it's not a democratic society, it has not offered hope to its people, and only when Cuba is well on the road to democracy could our relationship improve significantly and will this migration problem disappear.

Q: There's an older law which is to grant Cubans asylum. So that is essentially being superseded by what the Attorney General did, by intercepting them and forcibly repatriating them.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We will continue, and I have stressed in my remarks, that we will continue to provide the opportunity for refugee status which is asylum in-country, and for those who think that there are extreme circumstances that warrant asylum processing or refugee processing otherwise, we are going to continue to adhere to international migration policy with respect to refugees and asylum.

Q: Secretary Tarnoff, this shows, obviously, that you can cut a worthwhile deal with Castro. Why not use this as a basis for broader negotiations on appropriation of property, the embargo and the transition to democracy?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: Again, let me go back to my statement and to say that this agreement builds on what we concluded with the Cubans last summer. It was in the interest of the United States to regularize migration in Cuba, from Cuba, and this is a further step which goes in that direction.

Our policy mark with respect to all other aspects of Cuban policy and U.S. attitudes toward Cuba remains the same. And there is nothing in this agreement which affects in any way, shape or form our overall approach to Cuba, which is the one I described beforehand.

Q: Secretary Tarnoff, you just said that Cuba is not a democratic society. What guarantees have you received from that government that U.S. officers there, consular officers there will be able to monitor the Cubans that are repatriated or caught at sea and repatriated to their country?

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: We had understandings last summer in connection with the September 9th agreement that Cuba would do nothing to impede the attempts by Cuban nationals to go to the interest section and to apply for admission to the United States. There have also bee 1,600 Cubans who have returned from Guantanamo voluntarily, over 200 of whom have also applied for regular admission status at the interest section. So it was based on our experience with the Cubans, our ability to have people on the ground, more people, if necessary, to monitor the situation that the Attorney General concluded that it was possible for us to have this kind of an agreement with a high degree of assurance that the Cubans would continue to honor it.

Q: Mr. Tarnoff, how can you justify in moral terms the repatriation, the forced repatriation of people to a society that by the administration's own reckoning does not value basic human rights.

UNDER SECRETARY TARNOFF: The rationale that we are using is for the purposes of legal migration to the United States. We believe we have not only a commitment by the government of Cuba, but experience with that government over the last nine months that they will not interfere with the ability of these people to either return to their homes, resume their lives, or come to the interest section and begin the process of legal migration to the United States. This has nothing to do with the broader reaches of Cuban society where the attitudes of the United States is well-known.

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. I want to thank everyone for the briefing. I've got copies here of the joint statement that has been simultaneously issued in Havana and will be issued here.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END12:48 P.M. EDT



Citation: William J. Clinton: "Press Briefing by Attorney General Janet Reno, General John Sheehan, Commander In Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff," May 2, 1995. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=59683.
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