The following editorial appeared in Thursday's Los Angeles Times:
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service had it right. Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy whose mother drowned trying to smuggle him into the United States, should be reunited with his father in Cuba.
Attorney General Janet Reno now has upheld the INS ruling announced last week by Commissioner Doris Meissner, brushing aside a Florida state court decision that ordered the boy to remain in the United States. Reno noted that any legal challenge to the INS ruling must take place in federal court, since immigration laws are federal statutes.
Where U.S. authorities fell short was in withdrawing the date for the boy's return after initially ruling that he must go back by Friday. A new date should be announced immediately, and the INS must stick to it.
The fate of Elian Gonzalez has become a political drama within the Cuban exile communities in Florida and elsewhere, but Reno's ruling must not be delayed simply to placate the angry protesters. The rage the exiles express against the Castro regime is understandable, and often shared by this newspaper, but the Gonzalez case is a family matter, not an issue of U.S.-Cuban relations. Politicians who insist otherwise are pandering to the exiles. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., for instance, is reportedly considering a bill that would grant immediate U.S. citizenship to Elian.
Vice President Al Gore also tried to make the 6-year-old a political issue, second-guessing the INS by questioning whether the agency has ''the experience and the expertise'' to make a custody decision. In fact, the INS deals with issues of family reunification all the time.
Let there be no doubt, no hesitation and no more delays. Elian Gonzalez belongs with his father and other close relatives in Cuba. He should be returned home as soon as feasible. The political posturing over this family tragedy must end, for the boy's sake and America's honor.
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