One step closer to going home

Elian Gonzalez: Once again, a U.S. court gives family values priority in bitter custody battle.

June 02, 2000

MOST Americans apparently agree with the three judges of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that only Juan Miguel Gonzalez speaks for his son, Elian, in requesting -- or not requesting -- asylum.

That is all the Atlanta panel decided in affirming a District Court judge's ruling that the Immigration and Naturalization Service acted reasonably in determining that young Elian, at age 6, wasn't old enough to make such a request himself. Nor could his distant relatives in Miami, the appeals panel ruled.

But the court carefully steered clear of saying the INS was right or wrong in its judgment. Only that the agency had exercised reasonably the discretion granted to it by law.

Other reasonable people might have made a different decision, but the judges found no justification to second-guess the INS.

In other words, the INS followed the rules laid down by Congress and the courts.

Precedent was carefully followed.

But it's not over.

The entire 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta could intercede, or the Supreme Court, or one Supreme Court justice. Juan Miguel Gonzalez still is not free to take Elian home to Cuba.

So far, the rulings rightly uphold family over political values. They adhere to laws made by Congress and prior court decisions. They are consistent with pleas of parents with U.S. citizenship for rights respecting children taken overseas to cultural and political systems claiming superiority to our own.

It is not true that Elian would expect to be persecuted in Communist Cuba. It certainly is true that Fidel Castro is exploiting the 6-year-old shamelessly to bolster his own political fortune. But then so is the Cuban American National Foundation of Miami.

Great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez and his backers have every right to appeal further, as they did quickly yesterday to Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. In the end, what they and responsible leaders of the Miami Cuban-American community should do is accept the result.

Denunciations of U.S. law and threats emanating from some elements within that community do not speak of honest political asylum or acceptance of U.S. ways. When recourse is taken to the courts and law, those courts and law must be respected.

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