Elián González: How Many T-shirts and Banners Must He Become?
By Mark A. Rogers, M.S., M.A., Psy.D.
Honisa Behavioral Treatment Centers, Inc.
In the dawn of 22 November 1999, Elaine de Valle (1999) reported that Elián González, his mother and her common-law husband, along with 11 Cubans, waded through shallow waters off Cárdenas in the province of Matanzas pushing a 17- to 20-foot boat away from homes so these émigrés (immigrants) would not be seen or heard. The Cubans voyage was headed out into the Florida Straights to the United States of America in search of libertad y una nuevo existencia (freedom and a new life). In the high profile international debate over whether Elián should be repatriated to his papá in Cuba or allowed to remain in Miami with relatives, de Valle maintains there also are the life stories or generative legacies of the 11 others¾ who they were and why they risked this deadly voyage. Through the interviews with the two adult survivors and the family of the dead émigrés in this country and Cuba, pieced together with the narrative of the U.S. Border Patrol, de Valle and The Miami Herald tried to re-create this tragic journey, which in this writers opinion helps to illuminate why Elián González is so many T-shirts and banners for so many peoples in our global family of cultures vying for their right to reality.
de Valle argues that the genesis of this story originated nearly 18 months ago when Lazaro Rafael Munero Garcia, who was the organizer of this deadly voyage, first came to South Florida. It was the night of 29 June 1998 when he landed near mile marker 71 in the Keys and told Border Patrol agents that he had come upon a 12-foot boat with three other men. de Valle reported that he spent the night at the Krome detention center and then was released into the community the next morning. His uncle and aunt, Jorge and Maria Lopez Munero offered to let Lazaro live with them and the couples young daughter in the small addition that they rent in Flagami. Jorge told de Valle, "From the beginning, he would cry for his parents, his wife and the boy." de Valle reported that Lazaros family does not believe that he was legally married to Elizabet Brotons Rodriguez, Eliáns mother, yet, on the other hand, they maintained the two lived together for years. "He considered her his wife," Jorge told de Valle. "He lived for her. He couldnt be happy here without her and the little boy. He loved that boy, too."
de Valle said that the family told her that Lazaro worked at a carwash seven days a week to send "much-needed dollars back to loved ones in Cuba." Maria Lopez Munero told de Valle that Lazaro would leave around 7 or 7:30 in the morning and not come home until 9 or 10 at night. He would eat and then go to sleep. She told de Valle, "He never went out to parties or even to drive around. I once told him, Come with me and the girls to the movies, but he said no, that he couldnt enjoy it."
de Valle reported that in October 1999, less than three months from his escape from Cuba, Lazaro boarded a motorized inflatable raft, headed south, which is a direction few Cubans take, and ended up with a 62-day jail sentence in a Cuban state security prison in Santa Clara. Jorge Munero told de Valle, "Maybe they thought he was infiltrating the country to do some harm or something, since he came from here." Jorge stated that when Lazaro was released from prison on New Years Eve a year ago that Lazaro began to drive a cab in Cárdenas.
Jorge told de Valle that he spoke with his brother and Lazaro approximately two weeks before the deadly voyage. This telephone conversation was the last time that Jorge would ever speak again with Lazaro.
Hey boy! How the heck are you? As good as can be expected, uncle," Lazaro answered. "But things will get better. Youre going to get a big surprise."
"You had your chance¾ and you blew it."
"Just wait, uncle. Just wait. It wont be long."
When his brother came back to the phone, Jorge Munero asked him what his nephew was talking about.
"Pay no attention," Raphael Munero said. "You know how he talks craziness."
de Valle said relatives reflecting back on the course of events leading up to this deadly voyage reported to her that Lazaro intended to collect "the materials, money and family members to make life in the United States worth it." de Valle said Lazaros entire nuclear family, his father, Rafael, his mother, Marielena Garcia, his brothers Jikary and mentally disabled Ricardo, and his common-law wife, Elizabet agreed to go on the voyage. de Valle reported Lazaro and Elizabet also took Elián on this voyage.
According to de Valle, Elizabet who was a waitress at the Punta Arena Paraiso Hotel in Varadero Beach with Zenaida Santos discussed the plan for this voyage. Zenaida who was married to Nelson Rodriguez, the brother-in-law of Elizabets neice in Miami, both were on this voyage along with Nelsons brother Juan Carlos, and these boys parents, Juan Manuel Rodriguez and Merida Barrios. de Valle reported this whole family also drowned and that the body of Juan Manuel Rodriguez is one of the remaining four that has not been recovered. She reported Lazaro and Jikary Munero along with Elizabet Brotons were lost at sea. Lika Guillermo also was another one of the fatalities on this deadly voyage. de Valle reported that Lika told her grandmother, Rosa Bentancourt, that she was going to visit her sister. de Valle reported that Lika, even though she declined two previous opportunities to leave illegally the country, planned to flee legally to the United States. So what caused her pause in the past? de Valle reported Likas relatives told her that Lika was afraid, that she didnt know how to swim, and that nobody expected her to go on this type of voyage. Likas aunt, Rosa Bentancourt, told de Valle, "If I knew where she was going, I would have gone after her. I would not have let her go."
de Valle reported that many people were part of the plan, yet, on the other hand, no one knew that Lazaro was "building a vessel using spare parts, aluminum and a motor he fashioned. He used money he saved as a taxi driver and cash he got from selling his 1955 Chevrolet. He made himself captain of the voyage," because as Lazaros best friend said, "He knew the most. He had experience. It looks like he talked the others into it."
Rafael Munero, Lazaros father, according to de Valle, was uneasy about the voyage because he was leaving behind his younger brother, Dagoberto, who worked with Rafael and who was more like his son than his brother. Dagoberto told de Valle that he went to Rafaels home to either talk Rafael out of taking this voyage or to say goodbye. Dagoberto reported to de Valle that his brother "seemed half-drunk and half-ready to stay home. He didnt want me to stay. And I didnt want him to leave." Dogoberto stated that he tried to persuade his brother to change his mind. But Dogobertos sister-in-law and Lazaro were there too, and according to de Valle, they were eager to go.
I gave him advice, Dagoberto Munero said. I said, Dont go. Dont go. Dont go. I didnt want him to go because he was like my father. I cant live without him. But every time I tried to say that, my nephew would step in to say, Why are you taking these ideas out of his head? We exchanged a few salty words.
Dogoberto told de Valle that Lazaro threw him out of the house and "I didnt say goodbye." While this incident was going on, de Valle reported that Elizabet was informing her family that she was going to take a two-hour trip to the "the big city." According to her mother, Raquel Rodriguez told de Valle that Elizabet " was going to Havana for a visit. I never saw her again." And de Valle also reported that the only two adult survivors, Arianne Horta Alfonso and her boyfriend, Nivaldo Fernandez Ferran, told U.S. Border Patrol Agents that when they found out about the voyage, they offered Lazaro $1,000 to take them with him. Lazaros uncle in Miami, Jorge Munero, told de Valle that he was sure his nephew "didnt charge anyone for the trip, all of them being family in one way or another." de Valle reported that Elizabet was related to the "Rodriguez clan through her niece Carmen, the wife of a third Rodriguez boy, Orlando, who left Cuba last year." de Valle also reported that Jorge Munero told her that more than likely "Lazaro feared that if he didnt take the couple, they would spill the beans." At approximately 4:30 a.m. on 21 November 1999, according to de Valles account
The 15 would-be emigrants made their way to Sierrita, a spot on the shore a block or so from a shipyard where tin houses are far enough away so that no one can see you. They carried water, bread, crackers, cheese and previously boiled hot dogs. Like many rafters before them, they also took three inflated inner tubes¾ just in case they needed them¾ which they tied and trailed behind the boat.
de Valle reported trouble with the outboard engine forced the émigrés to return to the Cuban coast to repair the engine. Arianna Horta took this opportunity because she feared that the voyage was going to be too dangerous to drop off her daughter, Estefani, who was 5-years old. Once the émigrés believed that the problem with the motor was fixed, they started out again in the dawn of 22 November 1999 for the Florida Straights to the United States of America in search of libertad y una nuevo existencia.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry, de Valle stated, had alerted the U.S. Coast Guard about the overloaded boat that was traveling for U.S. waters. The Cuban Boarder Patrol reported it identified the boat on Monday morning leaving the waters of Cárdenas. Cuban Boarder Patrol agents repeatedly warned the passengers to turn the boat back. de Valle reported that U.S. Coast Guard officials admitted that they had received a telex from their Cuban counterparts. They dispatched agency planes and cutters to search for the boat, and according to de Valle, they found nothing on the waters.
Late on Monday, 22 November 1999 not only did the group run into foul weather, but also the engine once again quit on the boat. According to all of the accounts received by de Valle, the group drifted in five-foot waves, bailing water that was coming in over the sides of the boat, until Tuesday night.
Arianne Horta Alfonso and her boyfriend, Nivaldo Fernandez Ferran told de Valle it was dark when the boat capsized. They reported that the group clung to the hull of the boat for a while before they were able to right it again. The boat continued to take on water. The group decided to use the inner tubes because they were afraid that the boat would sink. They formed two groups on the inner tubes because one of the inner tubes had become flat. The women passengers and Elián were on one inner tube while the men were on the other one. Then, according to de Valle, "one by one, they started slipping into the sea."
de Valle reported that Lazaro and his brother Jikary were believed to be the first to perish in the sea. A third who went to help was perhaps the boys father, Rafael. According to de Valles account
One of them decided to try and swim for land and send help. When he ran into difficulty, his brother followed. When both seemed to struggle, a third man swam off to help them. None of the three were ever seen again.
Arianne told de Valle that when a woman in the group had learned that her sons had perished in the sea she decided that she had nothing left to live for and let go of the inner tube to perish as well. de Valle believed that this woman was Lazaros mother, Mariellena Garcia. Arianne told de Valle that she tried to grab this woman while she and the others screamed out their pleas for this woman to hold on to the inner tube.
Arianne and Nivaldo told de Valle that on Wednesday they screamed and waved at several big ships to come and rescue them, but that they went unnoticed. de Valle reported that Arrianne, Elián, and another woman, possibly Merida Barrios, Nelson Rodriguezs mother, who was believed to have been the last voyager with Elián, were on one inner tube while Nivaldo remained on the other one. According to de Valles account, later in the day on Wednesday, Nivaldo became delirious and was starting to lose consciousness. Arianne untied herself from the inner tube and swam over to Nivaldos inner tube to slap him back to life.
When it became dark the couple told de Valle that they could see little lights off in the distance. They also told de Valle they were certain they were seeing a shoreline. They decided to swim for the shoreline but they told her that the currents kept pushing them back out to sea. de Valle reported, "Tired, weak and thirsty, they decided to rest for a while, keeping their eyes on the horizon."
According to the account the couple reported to de Valle, on the morning of Thanksgiving Day, 25 November 1999 when the couple woke up from falling half-asleep because they could no longer keep their eyes open, they realized that they had become separated from Eliáns inner tube. When the couple again saw some lights they began to kick and paddle the inner tube toward the lights and eventually saw some boats and a marina just off Key Biscayne.
In the mean time, de Valle reported Donato Dalyrymple along with his cousin, Sam Ciancio, were in Sams boat with Donato at the controls on the Intracoastal Waterway in Pompano Beach headed out on a fishing trip. Donato told de Valle, "We were just out of Lighthouse Point, and I was zigzagging southeast at an angle. There were three- to five-foot waves. It was rough out there, very rough." Sam was baiting the poles when Donato spotted "a dark thing, circular in shape" at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. When they approached the object, Donato told de Valle he thought there was a person inside the inner tube and saw what he believed was a hand and the top of a mans head. When Sam looked again at the inner tube he told his cousin, "Isnt that a sick joke? That somebody would tie a doll to an inner tube?"
The men began to reel in their catch when they felt tugs on the poles. Sam was working on reeling in a fish while Donato lost the bite on his pole and told de Valle, "So I went back to the steering wheel to get a closer look. I didnt think it was a dummy in there." de Valle reported that Donato told her something kept nagging him.
Im telling you theres someone in that inner tube. I think hes dead," he yelled to his cousin. Then, as if on cue, he saw a hand move. It slipped a little, then reached up again to get a better grasp.
His cousin told him to pull the boat over as he stripped in seconds and jumped into the water. When he pulled the boy in, they couldnt believe it.
"I asked him, Do you speak English? and he didnt answer," Dalrymple said. "He didnt look American, so I asked, Tu hablas español?" and he said, Si. But real softly, like a little sigh."
The boy never cried. "He never showed any tears or signs of being scared, even though hes probably been through hell and back and Im sure hes never seen two Americans before," Dalrymple said, his eyes widening as if he were telling the story for the first time.
The man with the tattoos covering both forearms cradled the weak foreign boy in his arms anyway.
"While my cousin is on the phone, Im kissing his face, his forehead and his cheeks and his chin, and holding him," Dalrymple said, crossing his arms on his chest as if he still held the child.
The exhausted boy immediately fell asleep, he said.
What Elián woke up to face must have been a reality that he has never experienced before in his life and also a reality that he never imagined he would ever have to face in the course of his lifespan. Aldo Madruga (2000, January) reported that all of Cuba knows Elián and today is concerned about his destiny.
Elián is the Cuban boy who in a few days time went from happy and peaceful anonymity to the front pages of many of the worlds newspapers, his drama spotlighted before millions of readers. His story is, despite everything else, that of a child. You could begin telling it by talking about his handmade scooter and scores of games, whose current silence is a confirmation of the emptiness and sadness eating away at the González and Brotón families You could begin it by mentioning the blue, white and red kite he made with his uncle Juan Antonio, which he left behind in Cuba, never having flown italong with the red star he gave to his grandmother to decorate it the next daywhich today brings back memories and gives hope that he may be returned, putting an end to the pain. Or you could talk about the wooden sword made by one of his grandparents, thats lost its edge after having fended off heartache and nostalgia so much during these days; or focus on the small ring that he gave to his grandmother Mariela a few months ago out of his love for her, which today she caresses.
Lucian Newman, CNN Havana Bureau Chief (2000, January 7) reported that Juan Miguel González, the biological father of Elián, has been attending many of the protest rallies that demand Elián is repatriated to his papá in Cuba. Newman stated that Juan Miguel has never spoken up at these rallies, and now for the first time, he addressed the crowd.
We're going now on so many days without being able to hug, kiss or feel my son. Words can't describe the feelings that this separation has caused. I come here to express that it would have been impossible to go through all the suffering if it had not been, if it had not been¾ if I had not been able to count on you, the people of Cuba. Elián is not a t- shirt. He is not a banner. Elián was kidnapped, and what he stands for is the dignity of Cubans.
During a segment of CNNs World View where Bernard Shaw, CNN Anchor, (2000, January 5) posed a question to Lucian Newman regarding whether Eliáns repatriation was a political issue, or an issue just about a little boy, she offered the following commentary.
Well technically, this is just about a little boy, but its obvious that this wouldnt be an issue if it werent political. From the very moment that Elian Gonzales set foot on the U.S. soil, he became a banner, a symbol, that has fanned the old Cold War passions, the old Cold War sentiments, that have been really ruling the relationships between the United States and Cuba for more than 41 years now. And in Cuba, he also became a symbol and a banner that the government has used to depict what it called the arrogance of the empire of the United States, and certainly this has had some echo on the public here.
Anne McDermott, CNN Correspondent, (2000, January 5) produced a segment for in "Focus" that responded to Joie Chiens (CNN anchor) question that there are people who say that Elián has been living a charmed life over the past month or longer since he arrived in the U.S., but on the other hand, what does a 6-year old child like Elián think about when hes the center of so much attention?
ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (VOICE OVER): You are only 6 years old, and already a survivor. You survived the breakup of your parents, and you had to leave your father behind when your mother decided to sail from Cuba on a terrible journey to America, a journey that killed your mother. But you made it all the way to Fantasy Land. It must have looked wonderful¾ the amusement parks, those piles of presents, not to mention cakes and ponies, and all for you.
What must you be thinking? A child psychologist can only guess.
JESSICA GILLOOLY, PSYCHOLOGIST: Im assuming this will probably feel like a dream to him.
MCDERMOTT: A good dream, no doubt, if only because theres simply so much fun here, and there are so many people who love you here. Now Cuba might seem drab after the dazzle. No Disney World, no ponies, but it does share something precious with the U.S. In Cuba, there are people who love you, too. What must you be thinking? Are you even aware of the forces pulling at you¾ your Cuban family, the family in the U.S.? Now some officials say you will go home, but your American family says theyll fight that all the way. Well, can you go back? You are a survivor.
GILLOOLY: Children are adaptable. Theres no doubt about that. Children are remarkably adaptable.
MCDERMOTT: Yes, but you are only 6 years old. You may not know about this international tug-of-war, or even care. Maybe, despite the dazzle, what you really are is a little boy whos lost his mother. What must you be thinking?
Aldo Madruga (2000, January) reported that Yamilín Morales Delgado, Eliáns first-grade teacher in Cuba has cried a lot these days thinking about what Elián has gone through. "So small, alone in the ocean clinging to an inner tube, amidst the darkness and the ocean, terrorized." She reported that Elián is a shy boy who is honest, well raised and gets along capably with his classmates. " Aside from his mothers mistake, [he] was well looked after by her and his father. Both of them took care of him thats what Im told." She went on to tell Madruga
What could have been his last words to his mother? Could he have seen her die? How many things could he have heard and seen in those moments when death claimed 14 in the tragedy? What kinds of terrible scenes will stay in the memory of this small boy? So when I see his empty chair and realize the pressures hes exposed to in the United States, so small and with such a terrible recent experience, it breaks my heart, they have to be very blind and sick with hatred to use a child in such circumstances in their politics against the Cuban Revolution.
Juan Miguel González, Eliáns father, told Aldo Madruga (2000), people are trying to gain Eliáns favor by buying him toys and gifts that are influencing Eliáns telephone conversations with Juan Miguel. Madruga reported that he recently visited Juan Miguel and his family in Cárdenas after Juan Miguel had just finished talking with his son on the telephone. Madruga reported that Juan Miguel was red with anger and also short of breath. When Madruga asked Juan Miguel about his conversation with his son, Juan Miguel told Madruga
He hasnt forgotten his family, but its a crime how theyre pressuring my son to tell me things they want him to say. After I told him to be calm, that we were doing everything possible to get him back soon, I heard a voice from an older person telling him to say that he wanted to stay and become a pilot for Brothers to the Rescue. They interrupted him constantly and tried to get him to say what they wanted. He told me at the end Bye-bye, papá, and I told him to tell me good-bye in Spanish. They plan to have a trial in Miami to decide who will have custody of my son, with the hope of buying off the judges like they always do but Im not stupid, nor am I going to give them that pleasure. They have to return Elián, and from here I demand it. My lawyer is the best in the world: the people of Cuba.
Andrea Mitchell (2000, January 8) discussed with Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, during part of the interview related to the case of Elián González, Castros concerns with how Eliáns personality could change the longer Elián remains in the U.S.
One of the things that most concerned our people is the idea that this child has been showered with sophisticated toys; they even put him in a toy plane to pretend that he was a Brothers to the Rescue pilot, and dressed him in clothes and sweatshirts with the emblem of the infamous Cuban American National Foundation which, in any case, is not national but bi-national, given that it is composed of ex-Cubans and a certain number of U.S. citizens. That wounded our people very, very much.
I know that his family in Cuba, the childs father, has gone for over 48 hours without talking to the child, first because he was getting dressed and ready for the banquet and then, on Sunday or Monday, because they took him to Disney World, to take photos of him with all the Disney characters, and to stay overnight in a cabana there. During those 50 hours, the family was unable to talk to the boy. They were only able to do so last night, and the conversations are controlled, with the boy under pressure. Those things cause anger, and have concerned eminent scientists, psychologists, specialists in child psychology, specialists in education, because they are doing monstrous things to that six-year-old child, as the world looks on. Were not so concerned about avoiding a prolongation of the familys suffering, which is terrible¾ the father above all is suffering terribly and the grandparents as well, and they are the ones who have the right to his custody and care. Its not a question of a few days, more or less. The vital question is, how long does it take to change the mentality of a six-year-old child?
When Andrea Mitchell asked Castro about his apprehension that Elián could say he wants to stay in the U.S., and that all the toys he is receiving might seduce him, Castro commented
The problem is that his real family in Cuba cannot resign itself to the idea, and the people cannot resign themselves to the idea that, by using those cynical procedures, they are trying to change the mentality of a child, to uproot him from his real family, from his nearest and dearest, to break those links in an innocent and defenseless child, to destroy that. What will be left of that childs identity? Thus, the response that we want from scientists and the specialists is to know how long it could take to change the mentality of a child at that early age.
I ask myself: "Why do they want to stretch this out, possibly to change the childs mentality, to destroy the mind of that child? What will be left of that childs psychology? How will he re-adapt to the bosom of his real family? And I know his family members have suffered, precisely through perceiving a certain state of timidity in the child, at certain times, as if they were trying to wrest the fathers affection from him. That is a crime, one of the most monstrous crimes. If somebody sees that a child is being murdered, that his life is being torn to pieces, surely they wont be in agreement. If they see that a childs mind is being destroyed, totally changed, for shameless propagandistic ends, that is worse than physical death, and I am sure that many people have become aware that this is the destruction of the mind of a six-year-old boy.
On the 5 January 2000 at 12:13 p.m. ET, Doris Meissner, Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner, held a news conference informing the world about the INS decision regarding repatriating Elián with his father in Cuba. She emphasized that the spirit of the decision was based on the facts and the law. "Both United States and international law recognize the unique relationship between parent and child, and family reunification has long been a cornerstone of both American immigration law and INS practice." Meissner concluded the news conference with the following words to reflect on, "This little boy, who has been through so much, belongs with his father. We urge everyone involved to understand, respect and uphold the bond between parent and child and the laws of the United States" (CNN.COM, 2000).
Janet Reno, Attorney General, (CNN.COM, 2000) during her weekly briefing to the press, made the following comments regarding the INS decision. " Myself, I try to be as open-minded as I can, but based on all the information that we have to date, I see no decision for reversing it. What they took into consideration is: Who under the law, can speak for this six-year-old boy, who really cant speak for himself. He has a father, and there is a bond between father and son that the law recognizes and tries to honor. We have no information that would indicate that the legal connection, that bond, should not be honored." She went on to say, "We hope the day will come when this wont be an issue anymore between Cuba and the rest of the hemisphere. But this is a little 6-year-old boy."
The case of Elián González is difficult for more reasons than anyone ever could have imagined. Elián is a six-year old boy who is too young to make legal decisions for himself. The charter for the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service in this issue was to decide who could legally speak for Elián on immigration issues. According to Meissner, "This task was complicated by the fact that several people other than Eliáns father, a great uncle as well as three lawyers, claimed to represent him." And what about the others who perished on the voyage with Elián? Did they say things to him in the last moments leading up to their deaths? Can they claim to represent him too? Only time will tell. The world will have to wait until Elián "reaches the age of reason" and can represent himself.
In the meantime, until Elián "reaches the age of reason," Eunice Ponce and Elaine de Valle (2000, January 10) with the Miami Herald report, "Mania over Elián is rising."
"Hes a miracle," said Maria Rodriguez, 55, who stopped by the boys house before heading to the parade. "The fact that he made it for two days, with dolphins circling around him¾ that proves hes a miracle."
Religious candles line the sidewalk in front of Elians uncles modest house in Little Havana¾ Elians South Florida home. A handwritten placard leans against the fence in front of their driveway. Translated from Spanish, it reads: "Elian: Immigration wants to tie your hands and put you in the lions mouth like in the time of the Romans."
"I think the dolphins love him more than his father," said Sonia Espinosa, a Nicaraguan American at the parade. "They took care of him when he was alone, orphaned in the ocean. He is a miracle."
Ponce and de Valle reported a nine-year old girl, Indira Del Valle, who had just come from Cuba with her mother, told them, "Fidel orders the schools to be closed, and everyone has to attend the marches. They tell us what to chant: Devuelvan a Elian (Return Elian)." Indira also told these reporters that other children in defiance of the mandatory marches have their own chants. "Elian, amigo, mándame un abrigo." (Elian, my friend, send me a coat.)
On a Burden of Proof segment aired on 6 January 2000, Greta Van Susteren, Co-Host, (CNN, 2000) commented that in resolving a repatriation dispute such as Eliáns, there is usually a legal preference in favor of the biological father where both sides can openly discuss in a recorded fashion the issues. She then asked Linda Osberg-Braun, one of Eliáns attorneys, about this specific issue in light of the existing INS standard and process for repatriating Elián.
Youve just hit the key to this whole case. Under normal circumstances, this is not a normal situation, this is no longer a normal boy because of what Castro has done to him. We need to air everything in open court, in an administrative setting, and we will compel INS to follow those rules, so all of the issues can be aired.
I wonder if we all ought to ask Osberg-Braun and the other bevy of attorneys who claim that they speak for Elián, what complicity, what liability, do they have on what is happening cognitively, emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually to the normalcy of this boy, and like Castro, what are they doing to Elián? de Bono (1991) reminds us that "we can always defend our existing thinking culture because, fundamentally, it is a particular belief system based on concepts of truth and logic." Each belief system assembles a framework of perception within which it cannot be attacked. de Bono argues that "the arrogance of logic means that if we have a logically impeccable argument then we must be right¾ I am right¾ you are wrong." Our logic systems "carried through into language," de Bono insists, create and crystallize "perceptions that are crude and polarized¾ of the right/wrong and use/them type. Logic cannot change beliefs and prejudices but can be used to reinforce them and solidify the perceptions." Why is this little boy, Elián González, so different, so unusual, and so unconventional from all the rest of our children in our global family of cultures vying for their right to reality? How many T-shirts and banners must he become? Why must he be used as a particular flavor of logic that does not change beliefs and prejudices, but in reality, is being used to reinforce them and solidify the perceptions?
During the Burden of Proof segment aired on 6 January 2000, Ira Kurzban, an immigration attorney, corrected Greta Van Susteren, Co-Host, when she maintained that the U.S. "has some sort of procedure" for an unaccompanied foreign minor in this country. Kurzban reported this was only in domestic matters, and then went on to add
In immigration matters, the attorney general typically and always makes that decision. Now whether that is right or not is another matter. But what you are really saying here is: We should make an exception because this child is coming from Cuba. And you know, the next time this happens when the child is from Haiti or from Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else, you have got to decide: Are you going to give that child the full due process hearing? There are thousands of kids who come from Mexico every year. Are you going to give everyone of those kids a full due process hearing?
Putting aside politics, ideology, and immigration policies for the moment, this international tug-of-war and best interests of the child debate is far more sinister than most of us realize, and these issues should give us all great pause. Why must fathers in the U.S., and now everywhere in our global family of cultures, have to prove they are fit, subject themselves to second-class citizenship and gender bias on innumerous levels, while the motherhood mystique, while mothers for that matter, enjoy our instant support in the fabric of every layer of our cultural norms and roles, our societal institutions, and the judiciary framework of the domestic relations courts? Are we really prepared for the outcome? When you reflect on the outcome, think about what Ricardo Alarcon, President, Cuban National Assembly, said during a segment of World News on CNN (2000, January 7).
The assumption that fathers do not have rights in countries with whom you may not agree with their policies and so on is really silly. Are you going to admit into the U.S. how many hundreds of millions of Chinese children because they do not live in a so-called free society? Thats really the attitude that a normal American father has? I dont believe that. What can this man do in addition of what he has done?" He has met, has talked three times alone with representatives of INS.
Jeffrey M. Leving, custody attorney, commented on a segment of CNNs TalkBack Live on 11 January 2000 about the controversy and tug-of-war over repatriation of Elián with his father in Cuba, or for that matter, repatriation of a child in any country with a repressive regime.
If Immigration, if INS or any other legal or judicial body in the United States determines that it is a basis to admit children into the United States and separate them from their parents, and the basis is that their parents are living in a country under a repressive regime, then we better plan to bring in millions and millions and millions of children from all over the world and build thousands of orphanages throughout the United States. And that would be ridiculous.
Miles OBrien, CNN Anchor, on a Saturday Morning News segment that aired on 8 January 2000, discussed with Mark Potter, CNN Correspondent, the Cuban generation gap and the effect this issue is having on what should be done with Elián González. Potter reported that the majority of the Cuban-American community in Miami believes that Elián should stay in the United States. He also reported, on the other hand, that there is a sizeable group in the community who believe that the rights of Juan Miguel, Eliáns father, should trump the political and other considerations at work in the Cuban-American community, and that Elián should be repatriated with his father.
This is not a monolithic community, and its changing, it has been changing along the lines that you described, generationally. We have seen differences in the past in the area of the acceptance of Cuban musicians coming here. The older ones who more clearly remember what happened when they lost their country in the late 1950s are definitely opposed to that. The younger ones are more tolerant. Theyre more tolerant of free speech issues. So that gap has been growing over time, and it does break along those lines. It is in place here, but thats not the only factor. Its a question of whats best for the child, being with his father, or here, away from the situation in Cuba, where they say that he would not have¾ not only the material goods that he would have in the United States, but the food, the clothing, the freedom that he has here. There are many people who feel that sending him back to Cuba is tantamount to child abuse. Its a very strong and emotional argument.
CNN reported that Max Castro, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami, used his weekly column in the Miami Herald newspaper to encourage the U.S. government to reflect on the pressure Cuban exiles are exerting on the government to repatriate Elián with his father.
Once again hard-line exiles are using their clout to drive the U.S. government to adopt a course of action that would fly in the face of law and logic, not to mention larger U.S. interests. It is especially ironic that the very people who have clamored loudest for maintaining the embargo on the sale of food to Cuba, which has a negative impact on the welfare of most children there, now are at the forefront of ensuring the future of this one poster child.
The pressure from the Cuban exiles also is ascending itself to the highest levels of the U.S. government and to political figures considered to have the greatest amount of influence. This pressure is robed in the sentiments of "motherhood," "freedom," and "whats in the best interests of the child" standard. Alice in Wonderland here we come. Marisleysis Gonzalez, Eliáns cousin in Miami, wrote to Hillary Clinton, First Lady and Senate candidate for New York pleading
I ask you as a mother to remember Eliáns mothers will, that she wanted him to grow up in the United States and enjoy the possibilities that America affords us all Dont let his mothers will be gone in the Atlantic waters. Let him stay in a free country.
Putting aside this pressure from the Cuban exiles for the moment, we need to reflect on Marisleysis Gonzalezs words and consider the bias lurking beneath her verbiage and whether this bias is indeed in the spirit of the best interests of the child standard. If the table was turned on this tug-of-war, and we were talking about a mother who was in Cuba and wanted her child back, then Elián would have celebrated his 6th birthday in Cuba rather than in Miami, Florida. Instead of Elizabet, Eliáns mother being on that boat, if it would have been his father who had drowned taking Elián from Cuba away from his mother, would we still be having mania over Elián? Would we still be anointing Juan Miguel, Eliáns father with sainthood and immortalizing him for eternity in the psyche of the plurality of voices in our global family of cultures vying for their right to reality? Or as Kathleen Parker (1999) asks us to reflect on would we be "vilifying him and the stepmother for kidnapping the child and risking his life by placing him on a motorboat overloaded with human cargo." Maybe as Parker asks us to consider, "Juan Miguel deserves not only his son, but an apology and, perhaps, a congressional medal for self-restraint."
Late in the day on Friday, 7 January 2000, United States Representative Dan Burton, R-Indiana, issued a subpoena for Elián González to appear before Burtons House Government Reform Committee on February 10, 2000. This is well after the 14 January 2000 date set by the INS to repatriate Elián with his father.
CNN reported that Juan Miguel González, Eliáns father, responded to Burtons subpoena saying
"Why, who does he think he is? I dont know what right that gentleman¾ if you can call him that¾ has. I have my rights. Even the INS has said that the only one who can speak for him is me, his father."
Media sources reported that Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, made the request for the subpoena hoping that Congress would pass a bill granting Elián U.S. citizenship. The reason Diaz-Balart went to Burtons committee is because he is the only one who could issue a subpoena when Congress is out of session. This move has produced a delay in the repatriation process and was intended to force the INS to keep Elián in the U.S. until Congress reconvenes on 24 January 2000. When Congress reconvenes, media pundits reported members of the House of Representatives and Senate will represent private legislation to confer citizenship, or minimally permanent residency status on Elián González. Members of Congress hope this will cause Elián to be kept in the U.S. On the other hand, it is reported that this form of legislation is exceedingly difficult to pass unless everyone in Congress is in agreement; otherwise, it can be delayed for a long time. And delay is what this is all about. Eliáns great-uncle in Miami, Lazaro González, also filed for temporary custody of Elián on Friday, 7 January 2000 in Florida family court. If the court names Lazaro temporary guardian, then he would be able to apply for U.S. citizenship on Eliáns behalf.
It now appears it is too late to keep politics out of this repatriation process, this international tug-of-war over Elián. Again, we must reflect on the core question here, how many T-shirts and banners must he become? Lou Waters, CNN Anchor, asked Bob Franken, CNN Congressional Correspondent, do we let the legal, the judicial system, take care of this repatriation process, this international tug-of-war over Elián, and keep the politics out of it? Franken responded to the question by saying
Well, some of the question is whether or not the judicial system in the form of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, INS, has already, in fact, adjudicated this. This is what is being decided. Lets not loose cite of the fact that when somebody has a cause, legal maneuvering and political maneuvering usually are two tools at the command of the people. Right now, there is this effort to try and delay having Elian Gonzalez to leave the United States, but, of course, there could be some sort of compromise thats worked out. The effort to bring this before Congress is just one effort to try and delay things.
Armando Guttierez, a spokesman for Eliáns Miami relatives, told CNN staff in Miami, "There is no way this family will turn that boy over. The INS has backed itself into a corner with this decision. The fathers going to have to come to Miami to try to get his son back." And Jose Basulto, director of the anti-Castro organization Brothers to the Rescue, told CNN staff in Miami that his group as well as the Democracia Movement would do "anything to stop this action." CNN reported that Basulto "urged Cuban Americans to form traffic slowdowns and stoppages as a way to protest the order. He also urged protesters to form a human ring around the boy to prevent him from being taken away.
During CNNs Burden of Proof segment aired on 7 January 2000, Roger Cossack, Co-Host, asked Dan Stein, Executive Director, Federation for American Immigration Reform, about Steins views on whether Eliáns repatriation process is more about a political battle so that others can benefit politically than it is about the welfare of Elián. Steins view and comments were
Theres no question about the fact that the boys interests are no longer being considered by any of the primary players in this. Now we see the presidential candidates getting involved. Republican presidential candidates are trying to make an issue out of this, gain, obviously, the votes of the Cuban community in Miami in November.
Clinton administration has made the right decision because the Constitution gives the executive branch a very high degree of discretion in deciding these issues. As in foreign affairs and trade, certainly on immigration matters in a case like this, the INS and the attorney general have almost exclusive authority to determine a custody issue for a child who is legally at the port of entry. Al Gore [is] being put in the very difficult position during his campaign of having to try and thread the needle and not be burned by the prospect of losing South Florida, effectively, over the politics over this child.
If the father really believed that the child was going to be in some serious injury or death as a result of being returned to Cuba, I believe the father would sacrifice himself to protect the interest of the son and come out and tell the truth, if in fact he were being coerced. But we cannot take¾ we cannot go down to Cuba and essentially kidnap the father, make him come to Florida if he doesnt want to. And we cant have Congress stripping a father of custody of his own child through what would effectively be a bill of attainder.
So, in the end, Congress ought to back off and let the process work the way it should constitutionally.
During Larry King Live, which aired on 5 January 2000, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Presidential Candidate, blended politics with his reflection of the repatriation process and the international tug-of-war over Elián. Again, we must reflect carefully on Senator McCains comments and ask ourselves, is he speaking and representing what is in the best interests of the child? Senator McCain, how many T-shirts and banners must Elián become?
I was just thinking while I was listening to your other guests¾ they have a saying¾ a slogan at the Statue of Liberty. It says: "Send me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," yearning to breathe free. Thats what Elians mother was doing when she literally sacrificed her life so that her son could breathe free. And she gave her life so that he might have freedom.
I dont know why this father didnt know about it or anybody else in the communist hierarchy didnt know about it. But clearly, this young man deserves freedom. He deserves not to be sent back to a totalitarian, oppressive, repressive government.
Larry King then asks Senator McCain what he thinks the father deserves. Senator McCains comments were
I think the father deserves the ability to come to the United States. I dont know why he hasnt. And I wish that he would be able to do that. But this young man deserves to grow up in a free and open society and have the bounties and beauties of freedom rather than living in a country where Fidel Castro has decided that their young women would sell themselves in order to have hard currency for this regime to stay in power.
Larry King follows with a question regarding whether Senator McCain would encourage children to run away from their parents in oppressed countries, whether they need to get on boats any way they can, to get over here, so that we can take them in. "Forget your mother or your father, get here." And Senator McCains comments were
If the children want to achieve freedom, which they attempted to do¾ thats why they built the Berlin Wall, Larry. Thats why we all know if Castro ever let them loose, there would be a sign that said, "Last one out turn out the lights."
We need to take pause here with Senator McCains viewpoint and comments, particularly to his appeal to all children living under oppressive regimes in foreign countries to runaway from their parents, forget their mothers or their fathers, and come to the United States so that they "could breathe free." Maybe Senator McCain, and maybe all of the plurality of voices in our global family of cultures vying for their right to reality, need to "take a moment" and reflect on the essay that one Columbine student wrote.
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medication, but less wellness.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. Weve learned how to make a living, but not a life; weve added years to life, not life to years.
Weve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
Weve conquered outer space, but not inner space; weve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; weve split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We have higher incomes, but lower morals; weve become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.
These are the days of two incomes; but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes.
It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference .. or just hit delete.
Harriet Ryan, Court TV asks us to reflect on the repatriation process of Elián, and that Elián is proof our democracy has principles higher than democracy.
Maybe the U.S. did something noble. Maybe it took the right course of action, rather than the easiest one. Elian is heading home because his father is there, and because the United States after much soul-searching recognized that nothing¾ neither election-year worries in a politically important state, nor our troubled history with Cuba, nor even our Constitutional guarantees¾ are more fundamental than the bond between parent and child.
National prestige and south Florida politics dictated that Elian remain in Miami, but there was something more basic at play here. Civilized people and countries assume parents are the natural and best guardians of their offspring and their rights are inviolable in all but the worse cases. That means parents cant be forced to give up their kids purely because they are poor, illiterate or sick.
And, the INS determined today, a father cannot lose his son because he lives in a repressive dictatorship. Juan Gonzalez may not be able to give his son an independent press or freedom of religion, but he can be a parent to Elian. The U.S. recognized today that it could give Elian a lot of important rights, but it could never replace his father. The government weighed democracy and family, and found family to be more important.
Jill Nelson, USA Today, reported that "family values" does exist in Cuba too. She argues that the INS decision asserts that the "U.S. governments decades-old hostility toward Fidel Castro and the communist Cuban government doesnt trump the bond between parent and child, even at the risk of offending Floridas large and politically powerful anti-Castro Cuban community."
Elians return to the arms of his father will be a small victory for the much-touted notion of "family values" that American politicians love to bandy about. Its about time those politicians realized that the values they profess to believe in should not be subject to the prevailing political wind, particularly the chilly one weve imposed over Cuba. The right to return to homeland and family extends to everyone, whatever the U.S. government might think of their homelands. If we enable people to return to war-ravaged Bosnia, certainly Elian should be sent back to his dad in Cuba.
In light of this tug-of-war, this international, cross-cultural shouting match, we need to reflect on what Dr. Wade F. Horn asks, will fathers become extinct in the next century? He argues that this question would have been unthinkable 100 years ago. Is the Elián González case another confirmation that dads are disappearing? Is this case another unsettling instance to reflect on the "question whether fathers will survive the next century is unsettled?" Horn reports that nearly 40 percent of all children live absent their biological father. He says that approximately 40 percent of the children who live in fatherless households havent seen their fathers for at least a year. Fifty percent of the children who dont live with their father, according to Horn, "have never even stepped foot in their fathers home." Is Elián González doomed to become a statistic, as Horn highlights, where Elián becomes part of the cohort of more than half of the children in the United States today who will spend half of their childhood in a father-absent household. And Horn argues, "Some experts predict soon this will increase to 60 percent." Fatherless children, Horn asks us to reflect on, are more likely to fail at school or drop out, suffer an emotional or behavioral problem requiring psychiatric treatment, engage in early and promiscuous sex, and commit crime.
On 18 June 1999, in the Senate of the United States, Senate Resolution 125 was passed to encourage and promote greater involvement of fathers in their childrens lives. This resolution also designated 20 June 1999, as "National Fathers Return Day." Senate Resolution 125 reflected that the Senate
During a TalkBack Live segment that aired on 6 January 2000, Tony Levitas, Psychologist, offered commentary about the repatriation controversy of the Elián González case. His words are indeed well advised, and sentiments that ascend above the transactions of the marketplace in the practice of both United States and international law, and particularly, when the "T-shirt and the banner" is a child. His words too are indeed well advised for all those individuals who assert that they speak for Elián, and they are words that these individuals need to keep in mind in their line of sight as they lead Elián through the maze of the plurality of voices in our global family of cultures vying to speak for Eliáns right to reality.
I think the first thing we need to keep in mind is that this child has sustained tremendous loss to begin with. Hes lost his mother forever. Hes likely dealing with really horrific grief, and theres a whole range of emotions that hes likely to be experiencing, from shock and disbelief to anger, sadness and questioning why. Hes also been torn apart from his father and his homeland. So hes really dealing with quite an adjustment. Im not sure if people are keeping those factors in mind. I think it would be hard for any child in this case, whos been lavished with gifts and trips to Disneyworld and all sorts of perks, if you will, to stay here. So hes probably in a state of denial right now about what hes dealing with. But this will hit him at some point, whether its today or tomorrow or next year. But he will have to deal with this.
Why must we erect conditions and constraints on Juan Miguel Gonzálezs fatherhood during this tug-of-war? There is no question that this tug-of-war is forcing him to struggle, even punishing him, with adapting to varying situations across time and circumstances (Snarey, 1993) and with overcoming the barriers that prevent him from participating in a caring effort to "maintain supportive conditions" for Eliáns healthy growth and development (Erikson, 1998, as cited in Dollahite, Hawkins, & Brotherson, 1997). Juan Miguel is struggling with maintaining attachments with Elián, in spite of the numerous obstacles that are barriers, so that Elián and Juan Miguel can foster love between the generations "in a way that attends to the deep and abiding needs that children of all ages have to be knit together with previous generations" (Gilligan, 1982, p. 29).
The transactions of the marketplace in this international tug-of-war are a nemesis on everyone. These transactions reek of the fear of death and stagnation and would arouse in any parent "a shudder which comes from the sudden awareness that our own nonexistence is entirely possible," (Erikson, 1958, p. 11) and the existential imperilment of feeling the threatened loss of our children (Snarey, 1993, p. 23). Elián must be feeling torn and dejected with the prospect of losing more than a residential relationship with Juan Miguel. Elián too will have to encounter, if not now then eventually, the existential imperilment of feeling the threatened loss of Juan Miguel.
This international tug-of-war with so many people claiming to speak for Elián and their thinly veiled bias for the motherhood mystique, their ignorance of the science and craft of clinical psychology and psychiatry and respective perceptual frameworks, and a strict preference for the science and philosophy of law, cannot be apathetically tolerated because these people who assert that they speak for Elián are profoundly influencing his well being and his right to reality. They must not be permitted to side step their complicity, their liability, as a contributor in the manifestation of spreading a chill over the love between the generations and the generative legacy they wish for Elián to inherit and incorporate throughout his lifespan. The chilling behavior of those who claim they speak for Elián, whether it originates from negligence or a belief that they are the bastions for preserving the legal, narrow interpretation of the best interest of the child standard, what will be their generative gift to Elián? We need to ask ourselves, do we want to be a party to all of this and take ownership of this generative gift to Elián and Juan Miguel and expect that this gift will foster love between the generations "in a way that attends to the deep and abiding needs that children of all ages have to be knit together with previous generations?" (Gilligan, 1982, p. 29).
We are left then with one final question. Elián González, how many T-shirts and banners must you become?
Dr. Mark A. Rogers is CEO and President of Honisa Behavioral Treatment Centers, which are multidisciplinary providers of multicultural behavioral and mental healthcare, and alternative healthcare services to the Chicago metropolitan area. Clinical services help the body, mind, and spirit to heal. Services, programs, and treatment plans are developed specifically for each unique consumer. Clinical approaches integrate community support, culturally sensitive treatment approaches, and alternative healing practices.
Dr. Rogers holds his Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) and his Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology-Meadows Campus. Dr. Rogers clinical training included the integration of theory, research, and a three-year supervised residency in the major aspects of clinical practice. Clinical proficiency focused on all aspects of therapeutic intervention concerning children, adolescent, and adult populations with diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. Proficiency also focused on psychodiagnostic interviewing and DSM conceptualization, psychodiagnostic evaluation, clinical report writing, and treatment planning.
The first two years of Dr. Rogers residency was at the Madden Mental Health Center, Hines, Illinois. Dr. Rogers completed the third year of his training at Cermak Health Services, Cook County Department of Corrections; an American Psychological Association accredited internship site. Cermak Health Services is the largest single site correctional service in the country to have full accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. Clinical services include on-site medical, dental, substance abuse, and psychiatric services to over 9,000 detainees housed daily. Approximately 250 to 350 detainees enter the facility on a daily basis and undergo psychiatric screening. Approximately 10% of those screened are identified and referred for mental health services.
Dr. Rogers holds his Master of Sciences in Curriculum and Instruction, and was awarded a Graduate Teaching Fellowship, from the College of Education, University of Oregon. He taught undergraduate courses on instructional psychology, instructional design and learning systems technology, which were enriched with practical laboratory experience. Dr. Rogers graduate training focused on behavioral psychology, cognitive and instructional psychology, instructional design and learning systems technology, organizational leadership and change, and measurement of learning. Dr. Rogers has worked in both public and private behavioral and mental healthcare settings. Professional experience includes work in community mental health, psychiatric hospitals, and private practice. Dr. Rogers served as a consultant and also as a senior clinical therapist for over six years at The Association House of Chicago, a private, nonprofit Latino community-based social service agency.
Dr. Rogers Clinical Research Project (CRP) in fulfillment of his Doctor of Psychology focused on the relationship between fatherhood, generativity and acquiring joint-custody. Dr. Rogers developed a semi-structured clinical interview protocol known as the Life Span of Fatherhood, which was developed for his pilot study. The pilot study examined the genesis of participants fatherhood, how the divorce process affected participants fatherhood identity, status and role responsibilities, and whether generativity, generativity chill, and generative fathering contributed to the participants decisions to pursue a joint-custody decree. Recommendations for reform were offered regarding child custody decrees, access determination, and fatherhood identity, status and role responsibilities. Dr. Rogers ongoing fatherhood work focuses on male gender identity, fatherwork models as developmental processes, frameworks of generative fathering, and how the separation and divorce processes or nonresidential status affect mens fatherhood identity, status, and role responsibilities with their children.
Dr. Rogers professional memberships include the American Psychological Association, the Illinois Psychological Association, American Group Psychotherapy Association, Illinois Group Psychotherapy Association, and the International Society for Mental Health Online.
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