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IN THE MIDDLE

Nov. 30, 1999

U.S. should return young boy

Thursday, a young Cuban boy was rescued from waters south of the Florida coast and brought to the United States. Elian Gonzales, with his mother, was part of a group of Cubans attempting to sail to the United States from Cuba, most likely in search of a better life and more opportune future. The young Gonzales was one of only three who survived the trip.

This boy has now become the focus of a great debate--whether or not to return him to his father, who remains in Cuba, or allow him to stay in this country with distant relatives. The relatives argue that the boy has a better chance of succeeding and will have greater opportunities to shape a great future for himself if he remains in the States.

The issue of allowing Cuban refugees to remain in this country has itself been the center of debate, but now Americans and Cubans alike are set on determining Gonzales' future. Many Americans are already siding with the extended family living in Miami, including a U.S. Congresswoman who is herself a Cuban exile. But when did America establish rules to take a child away from his immediate biological family for reasons other than neglect or abuse? Here, a biological parent who is capable of caring for and providing for his children rarely loses a custody battle with distant relatives.

Gonzales knows his father and his true home, but he had never met his relatives in Florida until this week. Where would he feel most comfortable at this point?

The United States has no place deciding which country would be better for Gonzales to live in. He belongs with his father in Cuba, and that is exactly where authorities should send him. This is not about playing the knight in shining armor to people suffering under the hard fist of communism, it is about returning an exhausted and confused 5-year-old boy to the parent who loves him.