THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (San Jose, Costa Rica) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 8, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY, COMMISSIONER OF IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION DORIS MEISSNER, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JIM STEINBERG, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC POLICY LAEL BRAINERD AND GEOFF PYATT
Camino Real Hotel San Jose, Costa Rica
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 day, 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 press conference. Maybe that's a feature we should institute at news conferences in the future.
I've asked Jim Steinberg, Deputy National Security Advisor, to 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 some of our consultations with Congress on the effect of the 1996 immigration law, so I also am pleased to have Commissioner Doris Meissner here from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Lael Brainerd is Senior Director at the National Economic Council for International Economic Policy -- is here and put a lot of work into putting together the communique that was issued today. 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 you about, too. And we'll do this as quickly as we can.
MR. STEINBERG: Thank you, Mr. McCurry. As we are all that stands between you and the Costa Rican sunshine, I'll make this brief and try to answer your questions.
Let me say a couple of words about the general tenor of the discussions at the summit meeting today and some of the key conclusions that 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 relationship developing between Central Americans and the United States. They want to talk about a new era and a new language of discourse between the United States and 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 shared experiences.
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 that area.
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 direction.
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 migration.
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 environmental agenda.
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 illegal migrants.
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 and upheaval.
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 questions.
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 some extent.
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 the response?
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 amnesty.
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 October 1st.
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 place.
Q What specific modifications will you be seeking?
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 clearer.
Q Does the INS have any idea of the number of illegal immigrants from these countries that are in the United States?
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 it.
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 on that.
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 second-guess it.
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 amnesty?
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 that --
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 distinction?
MR. MCCURRY: Geoff, do you want to do the history of that?
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 well.
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 budget proposal.
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 canal.
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 in mind?
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 category already.
Q -- understand your answer -- sorry -- so is it textiles and apparel or is it --
MR. MCCURRY: It's a broader definition, but it includes textiles.
Q Mike, are there likely to be any domestic losers in this move?
MR. MCCURRY: In?
Q In the lowering of tariffs, for instance, apparel?
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 of?
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 years.
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 Urals.
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 century.
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 has --
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 Washington?
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 established today.
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 police --
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q I thought it was Nicaragua -- that he chimed in.
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 academy.
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 embargoed toasts?
Okay, good. See you.
END 4:20 P.M. (L)