- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

It's all very well to plan, as does Rep. Henry Hyde, a "preliminary inquiry" into the storm-trooper-style seizure of Elian Gonzalez, or to summon, as did Sen. Trent Lott, the attorney general to Capitol Hill to address senators' concerns about the government's pre-dawn raid on the Gonzalez home in Miami. But there is a time-ticking urgency to the bullet-train of events that the infamous raid set in motion.

According to a ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Elian Gonzalez is a plaintiff in an asylum case scheduled to be heard on May 11 in Atlanta. Will the little boy still have his day in court, post-raid? The Justice Department has, for the time being, obtained through the raid what it could not achieve through the courts: stone-walling Elian's asylum petition. Since he was forcibly taken from the home of his Miami relatives, Elian has been unable to meet with the lawyers who are representing his claim for U.S. asylum.

On Thursday, the appeals court rejected a request from Elian's Miami relatives for visitation rights with the boy or to have the court appoint a neutral, temporary guardian. The court's ruling, however, doesn't make Elian's father the child's sole legal representative of his asylum petition. "Last week the court ruled that once the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] designates a guardian and an asylum application has been filed, it can't change that designation and it must hear the application for asylum," said Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, in a telephone interview with this editorial page.

After daily, televised global media access to the shipwrecked six-year-old for five solid months, Elian is in seclusion at a private estate on the Wye River. Visual information about Elian's condition has been limited to posed family portraits sporadically issued "Courtesy Greg Craig." Incredibly, astonishingly, the supposedly free media are content to rely on Mr. Craig and his handouts, a man accurately described by Justice Department spokeswoman Carol Florman as Elian's "liaison with the public, media and Justice Department." Throw in gatekeeper and censor and Mr. Craig's portrait is more complete.

It is Mr. Craig who decides who snaps photos and who doesn't. It is Mr. Craig who decides who gets in to see Elian and who doesn't. In the latter category fall all of Elian's lawyers, all of the media and, of course, all of Elian's Miami family. To qualify as one of Mr. Craig's chosen people, one must come from either the National Council of Churches or the Cuban Interests Section.

If Elian's life behind closed gates, courtesy Mr. Craig, is a mystery, it is all too clear what the little boy's legal future holds. On Monday, the Justice Department filed a lengthy brief with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing against his asylum claim (which the court has recognized), portraying it as the illegitimate concoction of "a distant relative." The brief further argues to uphold a federal court decision that would send Elian back to Cuba, noting that and this really rings the outrage bell there is an "absence of evidence that Elian will suffer persecution if he returns home."

Absence of evidence? Since Fidel Castro himself has broadcast his plans for Elian a three month re-education program right off the bat the Justice Department is either ignorant, delusional or, as is far too often the case in the Reno years, just plain lying. But to what end? America needs to find out and fast.

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