Three members of Congress were arrested Thursday in front of the White House in a protest against the U.S. policy of forcibly returning Haitian refugees.
Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) and Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.) were handcuffed and taken into custody for refusing a police order to move. They were later released.
The three were protesting the U.S. policy of forcibly returning Haitians who flee their homeland by sea, a policy that President Clinton earlier had said he wanted to change but ultimately embraced to stem the flow of refugees to Florida.
“Unfortunately, this Administration has dragged its feet,” Waters said. “The people continue to die. They continue to take to the high seas, and we’re here to say we’re prepared . . . to go to jail in defiance of this Administration’s policy.”
White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said U.S. policy had not changed toward returning the refugees. She said the policy was directed at changing circumstances within Haiti to make the conditions there livable.
Clinton said this week that he could not rule out the use of force against Haiti’s military rulers if new economic sanctions fail to persuade them to allow the return of the country’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Meanwhile, black activist Randall Robinson was in the 24th day of a hunger strike against Clinton’s Haiti policy. He was taken to a local hospital Wednesday to combat severe dehydration.