- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 23, 2000

The Cuban refugees who crashed this week in international waters are quite lucky that the Justice Department appears to have redefined whether or not U.S. hospitals are legitimately on U.S. soil. Why just last December, while the White House was embroiled in the Elian Gonzalez fiasco the Justice Department decided that Elian could not apply for U.S. asylum because, among other reasons, he was initially brought to a hospital of all places, and was therefore never formally paroled into the country. This designation of hospitals as a separate, diplomatic no man's land had never been established before. But since so much has been redefined and invented during President Clinton's tenure, reporters gave this novel designation little notice.

Now, it appears the Justice Department has rethought the status of hospitals. After their stolen plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, the Cuban refugees who were on board were brought to the United States and hospitalized. Six of those refugees have already been given legal entry to the United States and the other three people who survived the crash, who are still in the hospital, will be interviewed shortly by the INS and are expected to be allowed to stay in the United States.

This normalization of the diplomatic status which the Justice Department has decided to give U.S. hospitals is quite curious. Since immigration talks between Cuba and the United States started on Thursday, it would appear the normally ingratiating Clinton administration would have much motivation to send the refugees right back to Cuba, as it did baseball player Andy Morales and the other 30 Cubans with him, after their boat was intercepted off Key West.

So a hospital is back to being what we always understood it to be, and the United States now has safely within its borders nine refugees of a communist dictatorship. Unfortunately, not all the Cubans on board the stolen plane made it to the United States alive. Fleeing Cuba is dangerous, and yet there are so many Cubans desperate enough to undertake the voyage. Fidel Castro is responsible for all those who have lost their lives on the way.

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