- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2000


A decision by an appeals court in Atlanta has given the Elian Gonzalez case a badly needed reprieve. Anger over the Justice Department's poor handling of the Elian case had created a potentially volatile situation around the Little Havana home where the child has been living for the past four and a half months.
"We are telling the U.S. government that if we must give our lives here, we are going to do it so Elian will not leave in the way they have planned," said Julio Ramos, who wore a T-shirt saying "No Castro, No Problem," reported the Associated Press. "It's a disgrace."
Tension ran high after U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno had set a 2 p.m. deadline for Elian's Miami family to turn the child over to his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Miss Reno shouldn't have made such a demand before a judicial review of his U.S. residency status had come to a close. The deadline forced Elian's Miami family into a desperate situation.
But a U.S. judge in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has given Elian the opportunity for due process. U.S. Appeals Court Judge J.L. Edmondson Thursday "asked the Department of Justice to forestall any enforcement action in the matter of Elian Gonzalez pending [the court's] review of a motion for a temporary injunction filed by attorney for Lazaro Gonzalez," said Justice Department spokeswoman Soledad Roybal, adding that the agency would honor the judge's order.
The judge's injunction is a temporary victory for Elian's Miami relatives and a sign that Miss Reno hasn't been following proper procedure in the case. The Justice Department said in a statement in December that the Elian's case was a question of custody and should therefore be decided by a family court. After Cuban dictator Fidel Castro demanded Elian's return to Cuba, top members of the Clinton administration have become involved in the case and have said Elian should be expeditiously returned to his father.
White House officials should never have become so closely involved in the case to begin with. U.S. courts, and not a government agency let alone one as politicized as Miss Reno's Justice Department should determine Elian's fate. President Clinton especially should refrain from giving official pronouncements on the case.
Unsurprisingly, he has failed to do so. On Thursday, Mr. Clinton reiterated his support for a federal judge's March 21 ruling that upheld Miss Reno's decision that Elian's father should speak for Elian. "We have a system, and if you don't think it's right you should change the law, but we have a system," Mr. Clinton said. The president's statement was highly misleading.
In fact, what the judge found was that Miss Reno had broad jurisdiction in the Elian case. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore said that an existing U.S. law allowing any individual to request an application for U.S. asylum is ambiguous and that he could therefore find no abuse on Miss Reno's part. Mr. Moore didn't find, as Mr. Clinton indicated, that U.S. law would have to be changed for Miss Reno to leave the Elian case in the hands of the judicial branch.
Fortunately, Judge Edmondson's injunction puts the review of the case back where it belongs in the U.S. courts.

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