Elian Gonzalez belongs at home

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2000

By now everyone knows the tragic tale of Elian Gonzalez. He's the 6-year-old Cuban rescued Thanksgiving Day from an inner tube off the coast of Florida. He was found after a shipwreck killed his mother, stepfather and other relatives as they tried to escape Cuba.

Elian's relatives in Florida are seeking custody and at first glance, it seems a fairy tale ending to a terrible incident - kid's family killed while escaping, kid makes it to safety anyway.

But of course there's a catch to the story. It seems Elian's father still lives in Cuba and wants him back. Naturally, Elian's American relatives are fighting to keep him in Florida and a state court judge agreed to a hearing for custody.

The judge said if the boy is returned to Cuba he would face ``imminent and irreparable harm'' including the ``loss of due process rights and harm to his physical and mental health and emotional well-being.'' Where did that come from, and how do we know?

Is it because Cuba is a communist country and doesn't have a Disney World? We may not like Cuba and its government, but the fact is the boy has a father. That father lives in Cuba and wants his son back. Who are we as a country to tell a foreign national they can't have their kids simply because we believe we offer a better way of life?

Would Elian be better off in America? Probably, at least from a material standpoint. But would he be better off without his father and living with relatives he's never met until now? That raises a whole other question and one we don't have the right to determine. Kids belong with immediate families, whether we like where those families live or not.

Thousands of people flee Cuba and other countries each year seeking haven in the United States. But this case has captured the nation and the media simply because it involves a cute 6-year-old who survived unbelievable odds. But of course, that raises a question. Would anyone really pay this much attention if the incident involved a 22-year-old black Haitian? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

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