Keep Elian Gonzales Here

by Bob Wilson

Isn't it interesting that for the first time in our national history we are sending a refugee who escaped from a communist dictatorship back to a life of slavery. The INS has decided that The United States should send the six year old boy to Cuba where his father lives because the INS has determined that it is a child custody issue.

The boy's father is a prisoner of the government on the island of Cuba. The Cuban government would not allow the father to leave the island, even to travel to the United States to pick up his son for fear that he might defect. This is not a child custody issue, it is an immigration issue. The question is, should the child remain in the United States (as he certainly would have been allowed to do, had his mother survived the crossing) or should he be deported to the communist dictatorship of Cuba because that's where his father lives. The INS has no authority to make decisions based on child custody laws. That is a matter for US courts to decide, should a custody suit legally brought to trial. The INS only has the authority to decide if the child can be granted citizenship, or not. If the child is not eligible for citizenship, then the INS may lawfully deport him.

The fact that a majority of Americans may agree that based on emotional and conventional moral customs and under normal circumstances "a child belongs with his father or closest blood relative" does not overrule the fact that he was brought here by his mother, who apparently had legal custody of the child, and who died in the process of attempting to escape from Cuba to a free life.

In returning him to Cuba, his interests and rights as a political refugee are not being properly attended to by our current government. He is in effect, being sacrificed for the sake of appeasement of the communist regime in Cuba. The INS has no capacity or authority to judge the fitness of his father to care for him. In fact, since the father is effectively a prisoner in Cuba, releasing the boy to his father and the Cuban government is the same as releasing a child to the custody of a prisoner in the United States.

Under a government not led by our current president, known to have been supported in his election bids by other communist governments, this would likely have been handled quite differently.

Jonathan Wallace replies:

These kinds of decisions are usually made by family courts based upon the "best interests of the child." In a case on similar facts without all the political hoopla around it, the court would lean towards returning the child to the living parent unless he was abusive or unable to take care of the child.

You seem to regard it as an open and shut matter that keeping the child in the U.S. is superior to returning him to a parent in a totalitarian country. This is not at all clear to me. I think that many children in Elian's circumstances would rather return to a loving parent than live without one in the U.S. The way the U.S. relatives--who are cousins, not proximate--have turned Elian into a political mascot also seems very distasteful to me.

Finally, you make some statements of fact which I believe are inaccurate. Since the Mariel boatlife, asylum for Cubans in this country is far from automatic. In fact, if the boat had been detained at sea, under current policy it would have been returned to Cuba without touching American soil and no-one aboard would have had a claim to asylum. I am certain that children have been deported to Communist countries before without any media hoopla, for better or worse; which just illustrates the fact that Elian's case is an appalling media circus, and not a genuine dispute over the best interests of the child. Because, if it was, everyone should be content just to let a family court decide it, after asking Elian what he wants.