Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Elián González (born December 6, 1993) was a young boy when his mother escaped from Cuba (which has strict laws forbidding emigration) and floated to Florida. Living with his great-uncle, he soon became the center of a custody and immigration battle between Cuba, the United States government, his father, his Miami relatives and the Cuban community of Miami. The latter two parties wanted him to stay in the United States after he survived an attempt by his mother to emigrate to the United States in November 1999. She and ten others died, leaving Elián to float across the Florida Straits on an inner tube with two other survivors.
Hostility between Cuba and the United States has been persistent since the Cuban Revolution. Over that period, a considerable number of Cubans have tried to leave for the United States in the hope of greater freedom and better economic conditions. This emigration is illegal under Cuban law. Since the Carter era, US policy has evolved into the current "wet feet, dry feet" rule. If a Cuban refugee is picked up at sea or walking toward shore, he will be repatriated by force (i.e., sent back to Cuba against his will). If he can make it to shore ("dry feet"), he is permitted to make a case for political asylum.
Under a 1995 migration accord with Cuba, Cubans who make it to United States soil are generally allowed to remain in the country. However, Elián was rescued at sea by two fisherman who then gave him to the United States Coast Guard. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) released Elián to his great uncle, Lazaro. INS officials told reporters neither they nor the State Department had any legal say in the matter. It was demanded that the boy be returned to Cuba to the care of his father, touching off the firestorm that ended only when Elián was taken at gunpoint by federal agents who forcibly entered his great-uncle's house. Elian was flown back to Havana with his father, Juan Miguel González Quintana, Juan Miguel's wife and their son, and a cousin, on June 28, 2000.
Elián's mother, Elizabet, apparently took him without Juan Miguel's knowledge, so in addition to the case's refugee overtones, it was also a child custody battle. The debate was whether U.S. immigration laws mandated he be returned to his father, as Juan Miguel could speak for Elián only if it was assumed he was not under duress from the Cuban Government. The situation of Elizabet's death indicated her desires as to the ultimate residence of the child.
For much of the summer of 2000, his plight dominated the news. On April 14, a video was released in which Elián "tells" Juan Miguel that he wants to stay in the U.S. Many considered that he had been coached with a male voice heard off-camera directing the young boy. The Miami family staged an elaborate campaign for sympathy as Elián went to Disney World one day, then met with politicans the next. On April 19, the 11th Circuit court in Atlanta ruled that Elián must stay in the United States until the Miami Gonzálezes could appeal for an asylum hearing in May.
Return to Cuba
Negotiations over how/when to transfer Elián were on-going when, in the pre-dawn hours of April 22, U.S. Marshals burst into Lazaro's home. Attorney General Janet Reno - who secured a custody order from a magistrate 10 hours before the raid - had the INS revoke Elián's visa, allowing her to arrest him for being an illegal alien. A photograph by Alan Diaz of the Associated Press (for which he won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography) shows an INS agent with a submachine gun pointed at terrified Elián and one of the men who had found him. According to the April 25 New York Times, Reno had hestitated to use force, but Juan Miguel - who had been portrayed by the media as a loving father - demanded it. The White House spun the Diaz photograph not in political terms (or, worse, as Clinton doing Castro's bidding), but as an effort to reunite a boy with his father for the sake of "family values". The raid had many critics, Harvard University Law Professor and Clinton supporter Lawrence Tribe wrote in the April 23 New York Times that the raid had shaken "the very safeguards of liberty."
Elián was taken to Andrews Air Force Base, then to the Wye River Plantation in Maryland, which was outside the 25 mile zone Cuban operatives were allowed to travel. The media was barred from access to the family. New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith, escorting the Miami Gonzálezes, was turned away from Andrews by guards. The May 5 Miami Herald reported that Elián was joined by his classmates (without their parents) and his teacher from his hometown, Cárdenas. Granma released pictures of Elián in a Young Pioneer uniform, Cuba's communist youth league. On May 6, attorney Greg Craig took Elián and Juan Miguel to a dinner in Georgetown thrown by Smith and Elizabeth Bagley.
From the moment Elián was taken, the "battle" to keep him in the U.S. was not much of a battle. Ramón Saúl Sánchez , head of the Cuban-American Democracy Movement , one of the many anti-Castro activists whom supported the Miami Gonzálezes, hired Kendall Coffey , Reno's ex-U.S. Attorney in Miami, to represent the Miami Gonzálezes. Sánchez hoped that Coffey's ties could soothe tensions. However, his practice and the practices of the other lawyers he brought on board was dependent upon the Democratic Party elite. Hence, instead of forcing Reno and the Department of Justice to start at, and work their way through, the Florida courts, giving him time to gather evidence, Coffey agreed to "fast track" the case, going directly to the federal courts. On April 13, the Miami Dade Circuit Court ruled Lazaro was "too distant a relative" to sustain a claim for custody. Coffey filed a notice of appeal of that decision, then dropped it. Appealing it would've set up a potentially lengthy fight over which takes precedence: federal asylum law or state family law. Moreover, Coffey did not go to the 11th Circuit Court to demonstrate that the raid was illegal and obtained by a false affidavit. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a last-minute appeal.
Elián now lives with his family in Cárdenas.
Some argue that the media coverage of the affair couched their reports with stereotypes which would not have been tolerated toward any other ethnic group: Time Magazine described the Cuban-led Miami city government as a "banana republic"; the May 1 issue of Newsweek contained phrases like "the fiery Marisleysis" (Elián's cousin, who was seen as a maternal figure to the boy) and "the hotheads around Lazaro"; the New York Times called the Miami Cubans "haters"; the Chicago Tribune called them "crazies"; Pat Oliphant, America's most widely syndicated editorial cartoonist, drew an ape-like Lazaro thumping his chest. Eerily, they echoed the remarks Castro made to the Cuban government newspaper, Granma. Castro said Elián had no right to request asylum, which was what most of the experts interviewed by the U.S. media were saying. Castro also called the Miami Cubans "Mafia" and suggested they had kidnaped Elián; these views were more than evident in the mainstream media's coverage. In September, 2000, Castro granted interviews to the Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News Havana bureaus.
- Famous photograph of raid on relatives' house
- Elian Gonzalez and family flying home to Cuba - CNN, June 28, 2000
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote a chronicle on the story.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details