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Who says a 6-year-old can make decisions for himself?

It's hard to remember a time when there was not an Elian Gonzalez story. This is a cast of characters that would make Charles Dickens proud: family feud, symbolic figures, good versus evil, and political overtones to boot. It doesn't get much better than this. I see a movie of the week within the year.


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There is much more to this story, however, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will have much to say about how "Saga Elian" finishes. On May 11, that court will hear evidence and decide, at the very least, whether or not 6-year-old Elian can independently decide whether he wishes to remain in the United States.

Recently, the court decided there was merit to the Miami families' claim that conflict could exist between Elian and his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, regarding the issued of political asylum. Juan Miguel says that Elian doesn't want political asylum here; he wants to return to Cuba. The Miami family is ready for Juan Miguel to return to Cuba, but wants Elian to remain here.

There is not much precedent in the law that gives a 6-year-old the right to make decisions for himself. In fact, I can't think of any, and there is good reason for that. Those of you who have had conversations with 6-year-olds can only smile at the insane notion of asking children of that age to respond to questions about persecution based upon "punishment or the infliction of harm which is administered on account of ...race, religion, nationality, group membership, or political opinion."

I cannot believe that the 11th Circuit will decide that evidence exists to conclude that there is an actual conflict between Elian and his father. If they did, it would set up an interview between Elian and an INS agent that would be worthy of a scene from a Marx Brothers movie. Elian would bear the burden of proof of convincing the agent that he should be granted political asylum. I would love to be a fly on the wall for that interview:

INS agent: "Well, Elian, please tell me why you believe you cannot return to Cuba, paying particular attention to the dictates in Asani v. INS, 154 F3rd 719 (7th Cir)."

Elian: "Well Mr. Dithers, First, I'm not sure that Asani applies. However, when you compare socialism as practiced in Cuba with capitalistic democracy in America, I cannot help but prefer the individualized system of the United States. However, I must admit that I am concerned with what I perceive as a system that favors the corporation over the individual."

Give me a break.

Immigration law experts believe that Elian, assuming that he is found to understand the issue of asylum and its "forever" ramifications, would have a difficult time making a case for political asylum. While there may be an argument that merely living under the communist system in Cuba is reason enough for asylum, the INS and the courts do not see it that way. Elian, even at his age would be in no better position than any other applicant and must meet the requirement of showing why he need political asylum. A 6-year-old simply cannot speak for himself while he has a competent, able father to speak for him. This is what family values are all about.


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