WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. immigration officials have decided that the Cuban father of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez has a right to custody of the boy, government officials said today. The boy must be returned by Jan. 14, according to officials familiar with the decision.
The U.S. decision, which would allow the boy, now in Miami, to be sent back to his father in Cuba, was to be announced today by Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
But Meissner was not expected to immediately explain how the boy might actually be returned to his father because that question involves possible legal action outside the government's control, according to U.S. officials, who requested anonymity.
Congressional officials familiar with the decision, however, said that the INS would announce the Jan. 14 date had been set for the boy's return.
The ruling will hold that the boy's father, a hotel worker, has the legal authority to speak on behalf of the boy, the officials said. Details for how the boy should be returned will be left to the families involved, the officials said.
The boy was found clinging to an inner tube at sea after his mother died in a shipwreck while fleeing Cuba and heading to Florida.
In Cuba, the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, could not be reached for comment, and there was no immediate reaction from Cuba's communist government.
Armando Gutierrez, a spokesman for the boy's relatives living in Florida, said any decision to return the boy to Cuba would be appealed.
Should the boy's relatives sue, a ruling by Meissner in the father's favor would be a powerful weapon in his ability to prevail in court, the U.S. officials said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.