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Does Juan Gonzalez, because he is the father, have the right to have
the final say about what should happen to little Elian? If the answer is
yes, the underlying assumption is that the father is speaking freely and
honestly. This is to say, there is not a gun to his head when he makes
his decision about his son. He is speaking as a father, not as someone’s
puppet.

Noted columnist A.M. Rosenthal, writing in the New York Daily News,
accuses the Clinton administration of withholding vital information
contained in a 1999 report on Cuba prepared by the human rights bureau
of the U.S. State Department. The report states that in Cuba, merely
expressing opinions at odds with the government “can bring sentences of
up to 14 years.”

The findings of the U.S. State Department confirm the findings of the
United Nations Commission on Human Rights: basic human freedoms,
including freedom of speech, do not exist in Cuba.

Translation: If Elian’s father does not say what Castro tells him to
say, he faces imprisonment. The father’s statements cannot be taken at
face value, and would be judged worthless if given under oath in a court
of law.

When Janet Reno says that only the father can speak for the child,
she ignores the reality that the father is not free to do so. This is so
elementary and so obvious that one has to suspect that Reno and the
administration of which she is a part have an unspoken agenda, which has
nothing whatsoever to do with the welfare of little Elian.

Co-President Hillary Rodham has made a career of defending
“children’s rights,” including the right of children to sue their
parents. She has not been shy in expressing her strong reservations
about parental authority: “Decisions about motherhood and abortion,
schooling, cosmetic surgery, treatment of venereal disease or
employment, and others where the decision or lack of one will affect the
child’s future, should not be made unilaterally by parents.”

And yet, she supports the idea that Juan Gonzalez, a communist pawn,
should have total authority to make unilateral decisions affecting
Elian’s future. The hypocrisy is palpable.

No less palpable is the hypocrisy of the entire Clinton
administration on dealing with the fate of little Elian. On Dec. 10,
1998, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a bulletin
entitled, “INS Issues New Guidelines for Children’s Asylum Claims.” The
bulletin boasts that “the INS guidelines make the United States only the
second country in the world to adopt special procedures for considering
the unique needs of its youngest asylum seekers.”

INS Commissioner Doris Meissner said, “The new guidelines not only
reflect the administration’s continued international leadership in
humanitarian issues, they also demonstrate that INS is taking concrete
action to further the protection needs of refugee children.”

The thrust of the new guidelines is to make it much easier to find
grounds for granting asylum to a child, based on the understanding that
children are more vulnerable to persecution and human-rights abuses.

Just as Rosenthal was offended that this administration withheld
evidence that the father was not free to make fatherly decisions, I am
offended that this administration shows none of the sensitivity to the
plight of little Elian called for by INS regulations.

A mother drowns in a desperate and tragic flight to freedom in
America. Her child is picked up by fishermen on Thanksgiving Day and
brought to our shores. The government of the United States is
relentlessly trying to return the innocent child back to one of the
world’s deepest hellholes. The government resists all efforts to hold
hearings or even discuss what is best for little Elian, parrot-citing
the “rule of law” as an excuse for denying him asylum.

There are times when the law is not enough. We can honor the law, and
most of the time we should, but the law is a poor substitute for a
conscience. The law is mutable. It can be made a mockery of — and often
is.

The Cuban Americans are called lawbreakers for standing firm to
prevent an evil thing from happening to little Elian. Yes, they are
lawbreakers, just like George Washington, Patrick Henry, Ben Franklin
and Martin Luther King Jr. were lawbreakers, and like them, they are
patriots, fresh from the experience of oppression and tyranny, in love
with freedom, and in love with America,

It brings to mind the wisdom of philosopher Eric Hoffer: “It almost
seems that nobody can hate America as much as native Americans. America
needs new immigrants to love and cherish it.”

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