Elian Gonzalez needs his dad now

Government acts: Attorney General was right to reunite child with his surviving parent.

April 23, 2000

ELIAN GONZALEZ belongs with his father. Family law and family values say so.

With negotiations bogged down, Attorney General Janet Reno's decision to remove the six-year-old boy from the home of his Miami relatives was the correct one.

Mental health experts had warned the Justice Department that the boy's goldfish-bowl existence amid distant relatives and demonstrators, brainwashing him to fear his father, was abusive.

Unexpected though it was during the Easter weekend, the swift action by U.S. agents under the cover of darkness -- at about 5 a.m. Saturday -- ends for now the circus-like atmosphere that had engulfed the child.

There was some chair-throwing and angry street protests by supporters of the Miami family but no large-scale violence, which some had feared. There is no reason that this relative calm shouldn't continue to prevail.

Nor is there reason for concern at this point that Elian will be removed from the Washington, D.C. area where he has joined his father.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has ruled that Elian may not be taken from the country until the courts rule on his right to seek political asylum.

But that ruling is bizarre, given Elian's age. Any six-year-old will be heavily influenced by the views of his caregivers are at a given moment. When he was with his family in Miami, of course he wanted asylum. (The relatives told him he did.) Now that he's with his father, he'll likely want to return to his home, grandparents and schoolmates.

Can either decision reflect much more than the normal confusion -- and dependence on adults -- that any small boy would feel?

This case has been politicized enough. And Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas and Miami Mayor Joseph Carollo did Elian and their community no good when they appeared to give encouragement to the mob guarding the Gonzalez house.

Having lost his mother at sea, Elian clearly belongs with his devoted father while waiting for further action by the courts.

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