Elian's humanity comes first

INS decision: Family values ought to outweigh Cold War with Cuba in returning boy to father.

January 07, 2000

THE Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) faced a difficult decision over Elian Gonzalez. After a deliberate process, feeling enormous pressures both ways, it reached the right conclusion.

Placing the 6-year-old child of divorce in the custody of his surviving parent is consistent with U.S. law and family values. Were there no Cold War politics, that is what would be done.

Not that all the arguments go one way. After the tragic voyage of Elian's mother and stepfather to what they were sure would be a better life in Florida, and his heroic survival, the satisfying ending to this drama would have been a new life of opportunity for him.

But the balance of arguments in the real world favor the course chosen by the INS.

What is most impressive in the international politics of it is that Communist Cuba, despite its own grandstanding, allowed INS investigators in to interview the boy's father twice and to satisfy themselves that his connection to his son and his repudiation of asylum for the boy were genuine. That these interviews could occur reflected an improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Some people will say that the outcome condemns the little boy to a life under Communist tyranny. They must believe that Cuba will always be Communist, which seems unlikely.

A more persuasive prediction is that Elian Gonzalez will grow up witnessing profound change in his country.

The most important point is that Elian is a little boy who just lost his mother, not a political football.

That was lost on noisy demonstrators in Miami and Havana.

The cane curtain between Cuba and the United States is good for no one but helps Fidel Castro cling to power. To the extent Cuba remains isolated, that should be his doing and not Washington's.

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