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Tuesday, 1 February, 2000, 18:54 GMT
Head to Head: The Elian Gonzalez case

Should he stay or should he go? The Elian Gonzalez case has generated fierce political debate in the US. Here two congressional lawmakers present their arguments for handling the Cuban boy's case.

The case for citizenship

Senator Bob Graham
(Democrat, Florida)

In the two months since his rescue at sea, I have repeatedly stated that questions of Elian Gonzalez' future must be resolved in a manner that takes into consideration his best interests - and I suggested that such a resolution could best be made by experts in child custody.

Unfortunately, Elian's case has been snared by a web of immigration bureaucracy that has undermined the chances of such an outcome. Current law, as interpreted by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), does not require that a minor child's best interests be considered.

Rather the standard is "who speaks for the child?" As such, the law is unfair to children like Elian. It denies them the opportunity to have their options weighed by an experienced child custody jurist using the standard of 'what is in the best interest of the child.'

Elian and every child like him should have access to the same values of justice and due process that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries.

Granting Elian citizenship will allow his case to be considered as a child custody case in a forum that is designed to determine what is in his best interests.

... The father's actions, especially his lack of support for an application for asylum on behalf of Elian, are not surprising given the intimidating circumstances in which he lives.

The only information we currently have available about the father's wishes comes from a closed-to-the-public meeting, in Cuba, between the father and INS officials. No other advocate or interested party had a voice in this meeting.

Our traditional standards of due process, so essential to our judicial system, were not used to seek the truth. This combined with the pressure he is under from the Castro regime, adds to scepticism that the father is able to speak for and act in the best interest of this six-year-old child.

The case for going home

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
(Democrat, Texas)

As the ranking member on immigration claims overseeing the immigration policy of this nation, I took it upon myself to be sure to meet personally and quietly with the grandmothers and all I saw was fear, overwrought grandmothers who had a loving relationship with Elian and who wanted to see him and do nothing that would harm him.

I also saw a grieving grandmother who lost her only daughter who was Elian's mother who now has only one grandson.

I believe the Attorney General and the INS is accurate in the decision that they made based upon immigration law as well as common law as relates to the way we assess whether a child needs to be taken away from a home and that is of course: Was there abuse? Is Mr Gonzales seen to be an unfit father? Or is Elian an orphan?

That not being the case then I think the INS is safe - as is the Attorney General - to make a determination on federal immigration law. It should not be quagmired in a state domestic court which will drag this on for ever and ever and will be attempting to extinguish the parental rights of the father

Elian has a home in Cuba and I think it is tragic that we would consider it appropriate to bestow citizenship in exceptional and extraordinary fashion which is through the United States Congress for a minor child that is even under the age of seven.

I believe that it is not an appropriate procedure or a focus for the United States Congress to be engaged in.

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01 Feb 00 | Americas
Tug-of-love over Elian
01 Feb 00 | Americas
In pictures: Cuban boy wins hearts
29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The Dalai Lama of Little Havana
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