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Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2000 /5 Shevat, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Save Elian Gonzalez --
WHEN ATTORNEY GENERAL Janet Reno declined to overturn the decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to send Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba, she noted that if new information were to come to her attention, she might reverse that decision.

Well, Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., visited with Elian and his Miami relatives over the weekend and found out what the INS would have -- if they'd only asked.

Smith, who speaks a little Spanish, talked with Elian and his family and learned that there is good reason to believe that Elian's father, Juan Gonzalez, knew that his ex-wife and son were going to make a run for it to the United States. According to these sources, Elian's grandfather, who lives in the same house with Juan, contacted the Miami relatives before Elizabet Broton, her new husband, and Elian sailed -- telling them to expect the three of them. There are also, these sources suggest, at least two relatives living in Cuba who can testify that Juan Gonzalez knew his son was going to America.

Will Reno reconsider now?

Only a bonehead, or an ideologue blind to the tyranny Castro has imposed on that island, could imagine that interviewing the father, under Castro's nose, could possibly produce an accurate assessment of the situation. In the weeks since Elian was rescued, Castro has made his repatriation the centerpiece of Cuban life. Cuban television speaks of little else. Posters of the child adorn the streets of Havana and Cardenas (Elian's home town). Thousands of "Young Pioneers" have been forced to engage in "spontaneous" demonstrations in Cuba's streets, demanding Elian's return.

Cuba is a police state. What is poor Juan Gonzalez to do? Tell the INS that he's happy his son made it to freedom?

Yet according to Elian's Miami relatives, INS officials showed no interest in anything except the boy's relationship with his father. Family members in Florida did not lie. They said that they believed Elian's relationship with his father was strong and loving. But it is possible that Juan Gonzalez wanted freedom for his son almost as much as Elizabet Broton did. The INS did not ask Elian if he wanted to return to Cuba (they never interviewed Elian at all). Smith did ask. The answer was an emphatic, "No, no, no, no." In fact, Smith reports, when the child has spoken to his father by phone, he has asked him point blank to come to America.

Doris Meissner, INS commissioner, explained that "family reunification has long been a cornerstone of both American immigration law and U.S. practice."
But that is misleading. When the United States invokes family reunification, it is to allow people in, never to deport them. As Sen. John McCain noted over the weekend, if Elian goes back, he will be the first non-criminal ever deported to Castro's Cuba.

It is hard to fathom how the Clinton administration could so mangle this boy's case. Why the bum's rush? Elian is scheduled to be deported on Jan. 14. This administration pulled out every legal stop known to history and then some when threatened with impeachment, yet now they cannot find any legal grounds for giving this child due process? Far from removing political considerations from the case, the administration appears to have acted with only political motives -- the desire to avoid a showdown with Castro.

Yet a humane and politically cost-free solution is obvious: Offer visas to every member of Elian's extended family to come to the United States. Here, unthreatened by Castro's retaliation, everyone who loves Elian can discuss his future honestly. Then the ball will be in Castro's court.

The course the administration has chosen is foolish, cruel and possibly dangerous. Feeling is running very high in South Florida. The boy's survival is taking on religious overtones (there are stories suggesting that he was found fast asleep, with dolphins surrounding his inner tube to ward off sharks, and that his skin, despite 24 hours at sea, was miraculously unburned). The scene may get ugly if the INS actually attempts to pull the child away from his new home.

Castro's conduct reveals once again his poisonous hatred for freedom and for the United States. Clinton's conduct reveals that he doesn't fully appreciate either one.

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate