INS Statement

January 5, 2000

INS Decision in the Elian Gonzalez Case

Doris Meissner
Immigration and Naturalization Service

The case of Elian Gonzalez has been a difficult one for several reasons. Elian Gonzalezis a six-year-old boy, too young to make legal decisions for himself. In thiscircumstance, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had to decide whocould legally speak for him on immigration issues. This task was complicated by the factthat several people other than Elian’s father—a great uncle as well as threelawyers —claimed to represent him. As a result, INS met with the father in Cuba, andseparately, with the great uncle and the lawyers in Miami. After careful evaluation of therelevant facts, INS has determined that Mr. Juan Gonzalez of Cuba has the sole legalauthority to speak on behalf of his son, Elian, regarding Elian’s immigration statusin the United States.

There is no question that Mr. Gonzalez is Elian’s father. Moreover, Mr. Gonzalezhas had a close and continuous parental relationship with his son. During INS’interviews with Elian’s father, he provided vivid details about his parentalrelationship with his son and about the nature of the bond they share as father and son.He provided extensive documentation about Elian’s schooling and his medical andhealth histories, as well as photographs depicting the activities in which he and hisother family members frequently participated with Elian. This scope of information andlevel of detail Mr. Gonzalez provided helped inform INS as to the nature and closeness ofthe relationship Mr. Gonzalez shared with his son Elian. INS has not uncovered anyinformation that might call into question Mr. Gonzalez’s parental and legal rightswith regard to Elian’s immigration status.

During INS’ two meetings with Mr. Gonzalez, his wishes for Elian were discussed atsome length. He made it very clear during both of these meetings that he wants Elianreturned to him as soon as possible. Based on these meetings, INS believes that he isexpressing his true wishes, and therefore we have determined that Elian should be reunitedwith his father, Mr. Gonzalez.

INS has advised both Mr. Gonzalez and Elian’s great uncle in Miami of thisdecision, and is prepared to work with all the parties involved to make the appropriatearrangements for Elian’s return to his father by January 14, 2000.

Having reached a decision, INS believes there are several ways this decision can beimplemented. The United States has discussed with the Government of Cuba theirconsideration of allowing Mr. Gonzalez, Elian’s father, to travel to the UnitedStates to accompany Elian home. INS also has offered Elian’s great uncle in Miami andany member of his Miami family an opportunity to escort Elian back to Cuba. In addition,third parties have offered to assist in facilitating Elian’s return to his father.INS is ready to work with the family and others to make appropriate arrangement for Elianto be reunited with his father. We believe this decision can be carried out withoutINS’ taking charge of Elian.

This decision has been based on the facts and the law. Both U.S. and international lawrecognize the unique relationship between parent and child, and family reunification haslong been a cornerstone of both American immigration law and INS practice.

It is our hope that with the knowledge of today’s decision, the Miami relativeswill agree to cooperate and work together, with either Elian’s father or a thirdparty, to facilitate Elian’s return to his father. This little boy, who has beenthrough so much, belongs with his father. We urge everyone involved to understand, respectand uphold the bond between parent and child and the laws of the United States.

– INS –


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