White House reviews U.S. presence in Haiti
Haitians to be repatriated
November 21, 1997
Web posted at: 7:41 p.m. EST (0041 GMT)
From Senior White House Correspondent Wolf Blitzer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton's national security advisers met Friday afternoon at the White House to review U.S. policy toward Haiti, CNN has learned.
The immediate issue being considered was the fate of some 400 U.S. troops still in Haiti. A separate 300-member United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti is supposed to pull out by November 30.
Though the president himself was not scheduled to participate, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Defense Secretary William Cohen were to attend.
The meeting comes in the wake of calls from several members of Congress to bring the U.S. military presence in Haiti to a close.
"We believe that our soldiers' mission in Haiti is complete," the congressmen wrote in a November 14 letter. "It is past time for them to come home."
Among the signatories was U.S. Rep. Ben Gilman, R-New York, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
As the Clinton administration reevaluates its policy, 417 Haitians captured Thursday trying to get into the United States were in the process of being repatriated to Haiti. It was the largest group of Haitian refugees captured in two years.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Scott Carr said the group -- which included 327 men, 73 women and 17 children -- would be returned aboard the Coast Guard cutter Confidence. Their rickety freighter was captured after leading the Coast Guard on a chase near Miami.
One U.S. official told CNN that some of those people wanted asylum in the United States. The official said that if these people are "in fear" of returning to Haiti, they will be treated "the same way other foreign nationals are treated" -- namely they will be accorded a hearing "to ensure that those who are at risk of persecution do not have to go back."
On Wednesday, Clinton signed a bill that grants protected immigration status to Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and other groups -- but leave Haitians refugees subject to immediate deportation.
Reuters contributed to this report.