- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2000

U.S. lawmakers will take action later this month to give a very famous six year old the right to become a U.S. citizen. The Cuban government is crying foul, but the efforts of these politicians are necessary to give Elian Gonzalez the rights that should be his due under American law, but were preempted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for what looks very much like political reasons.

Since Elian was fished out of U.S. coastal waters at Thanksgiving, he has become a powerful political symbol. For Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the Elian case has come just in time. Mr. Castro has successfully orchestrated massive rallies calling for Elian's return to Cuba. Using Elian as a political pawn, Mr. Castro has been able to distract Cubans' and the world's attention away from his human rights violations, such as the jailing of more than 100 political dissidents this year.

Elian's relatives in Miami, on his father's side of the family, have filed for permanent custody of him. Unfortunately, Elian's political notoriety has hurt rather helped the efforts of his Miami relatives to win custody.

Cubans who reach the United States are normally interviewed and "paroled" into the United States, which permits them to live in the country for one year before their immigration status is finally decided. Presumably to justify its later January decision to send Elian back to Cuba, Justice Department officials argued in December that Elian was taken directly to a hospital and therefore was never formally paroled into the country, reported The Washington Times' Tom Carter.

The White House has acted as though Elian is not a 6-year-old child, entitled to certain rights, but rather a vehicle for fulfilling its political "engagement" goals with Cuba. Regardless of what the Clinton administration thinks of the law, Cubans are entitled to certain rights under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. Cubans who reach U.S. soil are routinely given U.S. citizenship if that is their wish. Elian's mother gave her life to bring her son to this free country. She clearly wanted Elian to have U.S. citizenship.

It is this wish that some lawmakers are trying to uphold. Four Republican congressmen and one senator have said they will introduce a bill to give Elian U.S. citizenship when Congress convenes on Jan. 24. If he were made a citizen, Elian would have the right to return to the United States when he comes of age, even if U.S. courts grant the boy's father custody. This should be resolved through U.S. due process in the courts not by bureaucrats at the INS.

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