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Larry King Live
Is the Battle Over Elian Gonzalez Just About Scoring Political Points?Aired January 10, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, thousands protest in Havana after a Florida judge rules Elian Gonzalez can temporarily stay in Miami. Is this emotional tug of war between the United States and Cuba about what's best for a 6-year-old boy, or is it about scoring political points?
Joining us from Washington, Republican Congressman Dan Burton, who issued a subpoena aimed at keeping Elian in the United States. In New York, Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel. He thinks Elian should be sent home to his father. Also in New York, the Reverend Joan Brown Campbell, who's met with Elian's father and with Fidel Castro. In Orlando, Orange County Chairman Mel Martinez, who took Elian to Disney World; and one of Elian's American cousins, Georgina Cid-Cruz. Others too, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with the congressmen in New York and Washington, and we start with Congressman Burton in Washington.
Based on the Florida court judge, Rosa Rodriguez, ruling that her court has jurisdiction, does that end your subpoena, Congressman?
REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: Well, we'll keep our subpoena in effect for a period of time to see whether or not the Justice Department tries to reverse what the lower court -- what the court there in Florida did and try to put it in federal court. If that were to be the case, we might exercise our subpoena and take some action later on.
KING: Did you seriously plan to question the 6-year-old boy about where he wants to live, or was that just to hold him here?
BURTON: Well, that was an option that we had because of the subpoena. But the main reason was to make sure that the judicial process was followed to its logical conclusion, that the boy had his day in court, that all the facts were presented to the court and that they made a decision that was in the best interests of that boy.
KING: Now, Congressman Rangel, do you have a problem with that statement?
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Yes, I do. i -- with all due respect to Phil Burton...
KING: Dan Burton.
RANGEL: Dan Burton rather -- Dan Burton, I really think that he...
KING: Your friend, Congressman, remember him -- Dan.
RANGEL: ... that what he did is unauthorized. I mean, the whole idea of subpoenaing a 6-year-old kid who just lost his mother, who can't speak English, and believe that he's just doing this to deter the federal government from supporting a federal law under treaties that we had with Cuba. He did this unilaterally, without the Congress being in session, without conferring with the ranking Democrats. And so clearly, he feels strongly about the embargo against Cuba. But for to him use a kid as a political pawn, I'm surprised that even Dan would do that.
BURTON: Well, I didn't use the boy as a political pawn. All I wanted to do was make sure he got his day in court and all the facts were presented so that the kid would have an opportunity to stay in the United States if it was in his best interest.
And I'd just like to say...
RANGEL: Well, that's...
BURTON: And I'd just like to say to my good friend Charlie Rangel, Charlie, you're Fidel Castro's best friend in Congress and everybody knows it. And I fully expected you to take the position you've taken today because of your relationship with him.
RANGEL: Dan, you know subpoenas and are not supposed to be issued for you to determine what the court should or should not do, whether it's in Washington, D.C. or whether it's in Miami. Those subpoenas are to be issued with the approval and the votes of the committee for you to get information. And so what you're doing is unilaterally abusing the powers of the Congress for political purposes.
BURTON: That's not so, Charlie. I have the ability and the right as chairman of that committee to issue a subpoena in an emergency situation. I checked it out with our legal counsel, and we did it according to the rules and regulations of the Congress of the United States.
KING: Do you expect...
RANGEL: Larry King asked you whether or not you expected to have the kid to testify. The subpoena obviously says that you want the kid to appear before your committee and to give information. Now, what you're saying is that you don't really expect the kid to do it, but you were just trying to make certain that you deterred the federal government from doing what it's supposed to do.
BURTON: Well, that's... RANGEL: Did the subpoena say you wanted information and testimony from the kid, yes or no?
BURTON: There's two reasons we issued the subpoena. One, we may want to have the boy testify. I don't think it's going to be necessary. But the second reason is very apparent. We wanted to make sure that the immigration and naturalization organization did not send this boy back to Cuba without due process of law. And...
RANGEL: Well the first reason -- the first reason is shameful, that you would even think about having the kid to testify, and the second reason is unlawful.
BURTON: No, Charlie, you're just wrong.
KING: Congressman Burton, you don't envision, though, questioning a 6-year-old boy?
BURTON: No, we don't anticipate...
KING: Do you...
BURTON: We don't anticipate that's going to happen, but, you know, we had an emergency situation on Friday. The judge did not make a decision, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was saying they were going to send the boy back after they said a couple weeks ago they were going to let the state courts decide this matter. And we thought over the weekend they might come and get the boy and send him back and there would not be due process. And so we wanted to make sure that there would be a hearing...
KING: OK, fair enough.
BURTON: ... before a judge, and there would be a decision made in the courts.
KING: Charlie, why not let the legal process take place? You want the boy to go back. Why not let there be some -- let a judge make a decision, let immigration charge that they have the power, let federal -- let it go to the Supreme Court? Why not let the process go?
RANGEL: I don't have any problem at all with the federal court determining whether or not a federal agency abided by the law. But we're not going to have a nation of law if local judges can interpret federal law. But I want you to understand what you're talking about with Dan Burton. If he's not going to ask the kid to testify -- because he seems to say different things at different times -- if it was never his intention to have this 16-year-old boy who speaks...
RANGEL: Six-year-old boy who can't speak English to testify, ask him whether or not that's in the subpoena. And if that is in the subpoena...
KING: He said already it is, but he doesn't expect it to happen.
RANGEL: Well, then why would he put it in the subpoena? I mean you have to...
RANGEL: ... take an oath on these things.
BURTON: Charlie -- Charlie, we have subpoenaed many people to come before our committee. And in the interim, between the time the subpoena is issued and they were supposed to appear, we changed our mind for one reason or another, and we didn't have them appear. So I said there was two reasons we issued the subpoena. One was to have the boy testify, if necessary. And secondly, to try to get...
RANGEL: If necessary.
BURTON: And, Charlie...
RANGEL: That's the point...
BURTON: And, Charlie...
RANGEL: ... if necessary.
KING: One at a time, Charlie, one at a time.
BURTON: And secondly, to make sure that there was enough time for the lawyers to present their case to a court to make sure that there was a full court hearing and that what was in the best interests of this child was decided by a domestic court, to decide what was in his interest in whether he should go back to Cuba.
KING: Gentlemen, let me get a break, and we'll come right back with Charles Rangel and Dan Burton.
There's lots of others to follow as we discuss this extraordinarily complex case.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE ROSA RODRIGUEZ, MIAMI DADE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: The petition for interim order as well as the petition for temporary custody contained sufficient verified allegations that if emergency relief is not granted and Elian is returned to Cuba he would be subject to imminent and irreparable harm, including loss of due process rights and harm to his physical and mental health and emotional well-being. Those verified allegations and the limited factual record presented clearly confer upon this court at a minimum limited jurisdiction to grant emergency temporary relief to preserve the status quo, pending a full hearing on the petition for temporary custody.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Congressman Rangel -- this is a question for each of you. Congressman Rangel, the mother's boy -- the mother of the boy died trying to get to the United States. You would think, as an individual, maybe you would say that probably you'd rather have a young man raised in this country than maybe any other country. Don't you think that part should be given some attention here?
RANGEL: Compassionately I wish the kid was in the United States, but we are a country of laws. We do have an agreement, an immigration agreement with Cuba. Even if the mother had survived and reached the United States, under the law, she would have to be returned to Cuba. And this boy would be returned to any other country if it was not Cuba.
It's just the obsession that certain people have against the Cuban people that prevent them from treating this as any other legal case.
KING: Question for Dan. Dan, are you a father?
BURTON: I am. And one of the reasons...
KING: Do you understand how the father feels?
BURTON: Oh, I do. One of the reasons I'm very concerned about this is my father was an abusive father. He used to beat my mother and me, and he went to jail. And until we know the entire circumstances of the boy's father, and his relationship with him and the mother who died on the seas trying to bring him to freedom, until all that's expressed very clearly in a court of law, we don't know whether or not the boy should be returned there.
KING: Are you therefore saying, Dan, if he is a good father and if the courts in Cuba had determined that he had full visitation and he loves his son, he should go back? Are you saying that?
BURTON: Well, that's a matter not for me to decide, but for the courts of the United States to decide.
KING: Well, you just said -- but you just said, as long as he's a good father, what? What's the finish of the sentence, if he's a good father?
BURTON: But that's a decision that should be made in a court of law in the United States. If the father is a good father, if there's no problems, they probably will return him. I don't know. But these are things that ought to be completely explored before a judge.
KING: Charles, did INS have no other course but what they did? Are you saying the mother would have been returned?
RANGEL: The mother would have been returned. You know, when the Cubans were sending over these and Castro in a very insensitive way was allowing the Cubans to get on these rafts and come into the United States, it was then that the people in Miami said that we don't want any more of these people coming here. And we entered into an agreement that anybody that left America, hijacked a plane, the Cubans would take them and return them, and that any Cuban who left their country illegally will not be treated as a hero and given a ticker- tape parade, but would be returned there.
Those are the laws. These are the immigration laws, whether you like them or whether you don't like them.
KING: But Dan is saying no. Are you saying the mother wouldn't have been returned?
BURTON: Once they reach American soil, there's a process that they go through, and it's not an automatic fait accompli that they're going to be returned to Cuba. Charlie knows that. Everybody that gets to the United States that leaves and seeks political asylum from a dictatorship in Cuba doesn't necessarily have to be returned.
And this mother might very well have gotten political asylum and stayed in this country with her son.
KING: Charlie, are you saying the Florida -- Florida family court has no jurisdiction in this, Charles?
RANGEL: I'm saying that no local court can override a federal decision, and that certainly, if a federal court assumes a jurisdiction, then I would agree that we should be bound by it, because the only thing we should be concerned about is what's in the best interest of the child under the law.
But you notice that Dan Burton never said that even if it was found that the father loved his son and was a good father, that this boy should be returned to his father. He never will be able to say that.
BURTON: Well, what I will be able to say is that it's a decision that should be made by a duly constituted court and judge, and not necessarily a federal judge. You keep saying that, Charlie, because you want Janet Reno and this Justice Department that's doing the bidding of your president to grasp control of this away from that local judge so that they can make the decision that they've already decided upon.
BURTON: They want that kid sent back to Cuba, and you do as well. And I think it's something that should be decided in a court of law and not by this administration, because they want to normalize relations with Castro.
RANGEL: The only question I'm saying that you refuse to answer is this, Dan. And listen carefully. If a court, any court decides that it's in the best interest of the child to return home because they found that the father was loving and the son wanted to be with the father, then would you say the son should return to Cuba, to communist Cuba to his father? BURTON: Yes. Yes.
KING: He said that.
BURTON: I would support the decision of the court. That's what I'm saying.
RANGEL: Well, that's what I didn't hear you say.
BURTON: If they decide he stays here, fine. If they decide it's best for him to go back there, fine. But that's why we have courts to decide these custody cases.
RANGEL: And that's why we have a federal government.
KING: Dan, are you -- All right. Dan's going to leave us. Charles is going to remain. So Dan, are you a little concerned that people on both sides seem to be saying that the interest of the child is secondary here to making political points?
BURTON: I don't think we should be making political points. This is a custody case, pure and simple. What's best for that boy is what should be done.
KING: And purely what's best for the boy, right? Not what's best for Castro, not what's best for Clinton, not what's best for Burton, or not what's best for Rangel?
BURTON: I do agree with that. I don't like Castro, but if it's best for the boy to go back with his father, then so be it.
KING: Thanks very much for being with us, Congressman Burton. Always good seeing you.
BURTON: Thank you.
KING: Congressman Rangel will remain. He'll be part of the next panel so that everything's even up. And we'll be back with more of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this were an American case, it would be handled in a family court according to the best interests of the child. I think the INS tried to do what was right by the child, and I think that they did the best they could with a difficult and controversial situation.
So I want to stand by them, and if anyone disagrees with them and they have some legal recourse, they ought to pursue the legal recourse. But we -- and again, I -- and of course, they can say they don't agree. But I think they did the best they could on the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE.
Congressman Charles Rangel of New York is in New York and remains with us with.
We're joined now in New York by Reverend Joan Campbell -- Joan Brown-Campbell. She is former general-secretary of the National Council of Churches. In Orlando is Mel Martinez, chairman, Orange County, Florida. He arrived from Cuba, by the way, when he was 15, and he recently took little Elian to Disney World. In Miami is Georgina Cid-Cruz. She is Elian Gonzalez's cousin. Also in Miami is Spencer Eig, Elian Gonzalez's attorney. And in Washington is Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor who is a legal analyst for MSNBC.
Reverend Campbell, are you surprised at all these protests going on in Havana? I know you were just there.
REV. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: No, I'm not surprised. I think there are strong feelings in Havana about this case. Having been there, I think these protests come as much from the people as from the government. There's real concern about this little boy and what's going to happen to him.
KING: Mel, what is the involvement in Orlando, Florida for young Elian?
MEL MARTINEZ, CHAIRMAN, ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, you know, I personally am very concerned about him. I want what's best for the little boy.
I think that one of the things that keeps getting lost in the shuffle here is that the mother gave a great deal to see that her boy would have an opportunity for freedom.
And you know, Larry, I personally came to this country at the age of 15. I came without my parents. I was one of many other young children who came to America as a result of an opportunity that President Kennedy gave me that I would hope President Clinton would give this young boy, which is a chance to live in freedom.
KING: And the wishes of the father are not counted, Mel?
MARTINEZ: Well, they're counted of course. And I think now we will have an opportunity, if the federal government doesn't interfere with the legal process that's about to take place in Florida, for the father to come here in an open opportunity to express himself freely and say what's on his mind. But I, frankly, Larry, unlike perhaps Reverend Brown Campbell, do not feel that he's freely expressing himself in Cuba.
KING: By the way, if he does come here and if the courts rule in his favor, will you agree with Congressman Burton that he should be allowed to go back peacefully?
MARTINEZ: Absolutely. I would be willing to live by whatever a court of law would decide decide. I think... KING: Cynthia...
MARTINEZ: ... that's the way the...
KING: Cynthia, you're a former federal prosecutor. What's your read on this?
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think he should go back for two reasons. One is the moral grounds and the other are the legal grounds. Morally, I can't imagine a child needing their parent more but when one child has -- one parent has died in front of them. I mean, this little boy needs his father, and I think he should go back on those grounds.
Legally, you know, it's pretty clear in these situations when somebody comes in the country like this who's 6 years old, when there's a parent who's ready, willing, able and loving, he should be returned to the parent. That is a concept in the law of reuniting parents and children that we hold very dear even to the extreme. I mean, imagine -- I mean, look at the O.J. Simpson case, for instance. We are so wedded to this principle of reunifying parents and children, we even have given O.J. Simpson his children.
And this father by all accounts is a good father. He was interviewed by the INS, he loves his son, he has information about -- you know, they spend sporting events together. He's been spending a lot of time at his school, his mental development, his educational development and his medical development. So I don't think there's any question that ultimately we'll find out that the best interest of this child is to go back with his dad.
KING: And, Georgina, you're the cousin. You obviously disagree, but you obviously must have some feelings toward a boy and a father. So what's your answer to what Cynthia just said?
GEORGINA CID-CRUZ, COUSIN OF ELIAN GONZALEZ: OK, first of all, I have to go on behalf of the -- of Elian. He doesn't want to go back to Cuba, and nobody's taking that into consideration. He's said it a dozen times. He doesn't want to go back, he doesn't want to go back. His mom died because of bringing him here, and I don't think anybody's paying attention to that. And they have to, because she went through a lot to bring him to a liberty country. And nobody's paying attention to that.
And to what she said, I think morally he is not going to have any morals in Cuba. Fidel Castro doesn't have any morals himself, so I don't see how that kid is going to have any morals over there.
KING: You mean everybody...
CID-CRUZ: He doesn't have the family...
KING: ... in Cuba is immoral? Are you saying everybody in Cuba is immoral?
CID-CRUZ: No, I'm not saying everybody. I'm not saying everybody, but I do know everybody's being very much pressured in Cuba, and the communist government is definitely a tyranny. And I think that should be taken into consideration. And I think the fact that...
KING: So, therefore, if all children...
CID-CRUZ: ... the fact that...
KING: ... if all children could get out of Cuba today, you'd be in favor of the government taking them in?
CID-CRUZ: What? I'm sorry?
KING: If all children could get out of Cuba today, leaving mothers and fathers, you would favor that because of the moral concept of Cuba?
CID-CRUZ: Well, if they leave Cuba it's for a reason, and I think that needs to be taken that into consideration.
KING: No, OK, that's what I meant.
OK, Spencer -- did you want to say something?
Spencer Eig, I'm sorry. What did you make of that judge's ruling today?
SPENCER EIG, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: I think it was the fair and proper ruling. The judge found that Elian would face imminent harm if returned to Cuba and that he's entitled to his day in court both before her and before INS. And we hope that they'll respect the ruling.
KING: And what was the harm, Spence?
EIG: The harm would be that Fidel Castro...
KING: What was the imminent harm?
EIG: That Fidel Castro would parade this boy around the country and that to make sure he didn't say the wrong thing they would brainwash him, they would deprive him of all his freedoms, they would psychological torture him. So keeping in line...
KING: There was evidence to that? She had evidence of that in court today?
EIG: We presented allegations, verified allegations. We did not present evidence at this point. The evidence will be presented in the hearing, and we really hope -- and if he's a free man, we're sure he will come -- that Juan Miguel Gonzalez will come and participate in that hearing. And if he doesn't come...
KING: And if the court rules... EIG: ... that's proof...
KING: If the court rules in his...
EIG: ...that he's not a free man.
KING: And if the court rules in his favor, you will gladly accept that and not appeal?
EIG: This court's hearing is part of the whole process. The process also includes political asylum application before INS as well as other issues. We would certainly respect what the final decision of the courts. This court is part of the whole process.
KING: But, therefore, you might appeal if the court decided he could go back?
EIG: Well, we'll be in front of other forums also, not just this one. So...
KING: So you might appeal if they...
EIG: .. by the time this decision is made...
KING: It's a simple question. If this court rules to send him back, you might appeal it?
EIG: Oh, yes. Appeals are certainly part of our system. That's part...
KING: OK, that's all I asked.
EIG: ... of the justice system here.
KING: We'll be right back with more of this complex situation here. We'll be including your phone calls.
Don't go away.
KING: Congressman Rangel, are you at all moved by the statements of Mr. Martinez and Ms. Cruz and Mr. Eig and their feelings for this boy?
RANGEL: I am so moved by the pain and suffering that this kid is going through. He's just lost his mom, and they're talking about verified allegations about the harm that could come to him in Cuba, when we see politicians draping this kid with American flags, asking him to hold up the subpoena and say, I love Miami, asking him to turn his back against his own father, when we've had federal officials in Havana to talk with the boy's father and his grandparents about the love and the affection they have for him.
It is hard for me to see how people can hate communist Cubans so much that they will hold this kid hostage. And at the same time, we trade with communist China, we trade with communist North Vietnam, we trade with communist North Koreans. And yet because of this hatred we have for communist Cuba, we're using this kid as a political pawn.
KING: All right. Mel Martinez, Spencer Eig said the boy would be paraded around in Cuba. In a sense, weren't you parading him around?
MARTINEZ: Well, look, I provided the child with a day at Disney World, much like people did for me when I was a child here by myself. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for him to be a little boy for a day -- which he was.
But I think Congressman Rangel does a real disservice to the family and to his American family in Miami who loves this child very much as well, who daily have him speak with his parents -- with his father in Cuba. There's nothing about what the folks in Miami are doing that is turning him against his own father. What I would hope is that his father would come to Miami, would take the trip, and would then openly and freely speak his mind. And, of course, we would only know if he was freely speaking his mind if his new wife and child were with him as well.
And I think that this is what really lacks in this discussion is the fact that we do not feel that the father is freely speaking his mind in Cuba. This is someone who apparently, I'm told, on two occasions had asked for permission to leave Cuba to the American interest section, and they were denied. But this is someone who did not hold the feelings for the Cuban government that he seems to be parading around now. And so I would say, you know, let the court process take its course, and let him come and openly decide for his child.
KING: All right, we'll take a break and we'll ask Georgina how she knows what 6-six-year-old really wants, and we'll take your calls as well.
This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Don't go away.
KING: Georgina Cruz, who is the child's cousin, how can 6-year- old logically know what he wants?
CID-CRUZ: OK, Larry, let me tell you something: When I was six, I was in Cuba. And I got into a discussion with a friend of mine, and she told me that God doesn't exist, that what existed was Fidel. OK? And when we went to speak to the teacher to verify that, the teacher verified us that exactly, that Fidel was the only one that existed, that God didn't exist.
Now, I want Ms. Campbell to answer to me if she knows about that, because I lived that. I was 6 years old when that happened. So I want her to answer to me if she knows that that happens, because it happens all the time. KING: All right. I'll have her respond. I'll have her respond. But the question was, does a 6-year-old know what he wants?
CID-CRUZ: I think he does. I've been with him, and I think he does. He's always saying that he wants his dad to come.
CAMPBELL: I'd be happy to respond.
CAMPBELL: Our relationship in Cuba has been to the churches. The churches are strong in Cuba. There are people in attendance in those churches. The churches are packed on Sunday morning. And I want to tell you a story about when we went to see Elian's family.
His grandmothers were there and his great grandmother. I happened to have a cross on. And his grandmother, great grandmother said to me: That's a beautiful cross; I want you to know that I pray, and I wonder if you would be willing to pray.
CAMPBELL: I beg your pardon. Let me finish. I would like you to know that I want you to pray please for Elian. And at that moment, we agreed, we were alone, there was no one there except the family and our very small delegation. The family appreciated the prayers. I left the cross there. They put it in the middle of their table. And the fact is that we pray regularly for him.
CID-CRUZ: Of course, they're going to do that in front of you.
KING: What did you say, Cynthia?
CID-CRUZ: Now, let me -- let me answer to that, Larry. When I was that age, I couldn't even do my communion, because I couldn't go to church because my parents were so scared of taking me to church. OK? And I don't think Elian...
KING: OK. Let me -- before I go to Spencer -- Cynthia, Cynthia -- and I'm back to Cynthia now. Cynthia, does a -- I'm sorry for mixing up the two names. Cynthia, how does a court view a 6-year- old's testimony?
ALKSNE: Well, sometimes 6-year-olds can testify, but no court, when a child who's been punted around like a football like this child has, when they say to him, where do you want to go, his view is not going to be the final word.
You know, you can't even put a 6-year-old to bed. You can say to the 6-year-old, do you want to go to bed? They always say no, and they need to go to bed.
So the idea of taking care of children is that we make decisions for 6-year-olds that are in their best interests. And so the fact that he's been brainwashed this week to say he wants to stay in Miami and next week he might be brainwashed to say Cuba is the best will not be determinative.
KING: Spencer, that would be hard to argue, wouldn't it?
EIG: Well, we're not seeking to take permanent custody away from Elian's father. We're seeking temporary custody so that Elian's rights can be protected here in the United States. That's really what's important, that Elian have his day in court.
Let his father come here, if he's a free man, if he's speaking for himself and doesn't have a gun to his head, he would be here in a minute to speak in a hearing about the future of his son. If we see him come here, we'll know that maybe he's the real thing. But if he doesn't come...
KING: Do you think he might be fearful for his safety, Spencer? Would you guarantee his safety if he came to Miami?
EIG: Oh, absolutely. The community here in Miami wants him to come. We want him to come. The court has asked him to come. And his safety would not be an issue. His freedom to come certainly is an issue. If Mr. Castro is the one that's running the show, then maybe we won't have an opportunity to have...
KING: All right, Congressman -- Congressman Rangel, what about those who say, if it were my son, I'd go anywhere to get him back? Why doesn't he come here?
RANGEL: Well, there's no question: I wish that he would come here. I wish we would invite him here. But there's no real need for him to come here.
Once the federal government decides that the kid is here illegally and they decide that the kid is not in any harm and that he does come from a loving family, then there's no need for the father to leave Cuba and to come here.
As a dad myself, you bet your life, I'd try to swim across the ocean to get to my boy.
KING: Right. So are you -- are you a little puzzled that he just doesn't come to see his boy?
RANGEL: No, because he doesn't have to do this. Our government has probably given assurance...
KING: Forget what he has to or has not to do. It's his son.
RANGEL: Our government has given assurances to stay where you are and we're going to send your son to you. So why should he come here? Just because some people in Miami are demanding it, the president of the United States, the INS have all said that the law says that the father's entitled to his son. So he should stay...
KING: They've all said that. But meanwhile -- meanwhile, he isn't with his son. So let's say why doesn't he come just because he misses him?
RANGEL: Because we are waiting for us to abide by our own law and that he should expect that the president of the United States knows what he's talking about.
CAMPBELL: Larry, I wonder if I could just get in there for a second, because I think, having talked to the father, one of the things that he's fearful of -- and perhaps reasonably so -- is that he would come here and he would get embroiled in a legal battle which in fact would keep him in this country. I don't think it's so much his access to the country as his freedom to come and go immediately back to Cuba with his son.
I think if he thought he could come here safely, he could return the same day with his son, that would be a different story. But he has a wife and brand-new baby back in. And the worst thing in the world for him would be to come here, get embroiled in a legal battle, not get his son that's here and leave behind his wife and brand-new baby in Cardenas.
KING: And Georgina, to make this clear...
KING: ... you would like the father to come here -- hold it. One at a time. Georgina, you would like him to be with his father in the United States, right? You don't want to keep him away from his father?
CID-CRUZ: Definitely, in the United States where he's free.
KING: Right. You don't want him away from his father?
CID-CRUZ: I want him to come here. No, definitely not. He needs his father, but he needs him here in a free country, not in Cuba where he's goings to be tortured.
KING: We'll take a break and come back and include your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. The duchess of York tomorrow tonight. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with our panel. Let's take a call. Highland Village, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. My question is for Mr. Eig, the attorney.
CALLER: We've heard the family and also Senator Smith from New Hampshire say that Elian has said repeatedly that he does not want to go back to Cuba. Now, has it been explained to Elian that if he were to go back, it would be on an airplane, safe and sound? I mean, is this statement of his being made because he fears that he has to get on a rickety boat the way he came over and might have to relive that tragedy?
EIG: No. It's because he fears going back to Cuba, a country that...
KING: The question was, has he been told how he would go back?
No. The question was, has he been told how he would go back?
EIG: No, I don't think so. But that's not the basis of...
KING: But wouldn't it be logical: He would say, no, he doesn't want to go on a boat again and see somebody die?
EIG: Well, that's true, but that's not the reason why he doesn't want to go back to Cuba.
KING: How do you know?
EIG: He doesn't want to go back to Cuba -- because he has spoken in detail with his family. Georgina can tell you about it.
KING: You're saying the 6-year-old had detailed conversations? I'm sorry. Georgina, go ahead.
EIG: Yes, of course, appropriate to his age.
CID-CRUZ: OK. We've talked to him about it, and he's explained to us all the different things that are going on in Cuba, like he says something that in the house that they have very little -- How do you call it? -- that it's not clean enough. He's been saying all this. In his own little way, he's been telling us that it's not as here, you know, where he sees that everything is so clean and nice. And he can go in and out of his house with no problem, you know.
And even though he's had a lot of press, pressure, but that doesn't matter -- he's seeing that it's very different from -- from in Cuba. And he says it in his own way.
KING: Bellflower -- Bellflower, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Hey, my question was there seems there's kind of a double standard. What's the difference between this poor little Cuban boy coming over here versus a Mexican boy crossing the border with his mother, her being killed? And this wouldn't even be a news item, you know what I mean?
KING: You mean the boy would be sent back to his father in Mexico? Is that what you're...
CALLER: No question. KING: Is there any doubt, in your mind, Mel Martinez that that would happen? If a boy came from Mexico and the mother died, he would be sent back to his father.
MARTINEZ: One of the very difficult things about this case is that people do not understand the difference between Mexico and Cuba or Canada and Cuba. The fact of the matter is, if this boy goes back, at age 11, he'll be removed from his home and be taken to a farm, labor camp where he'll work in the fields a half a day and go to school and be indoctrinated for another half a day.
The fact of the matter is that he will be subject to military service whether he wants to or not at age 15. Until age 27, he'll be subject to that.
In addition to that, his father does not have a choice of deciding whether this boy will practice religion or not, or whether this boy will in fact go to a college of his choice or things like that.
I mean, in other words, there are not the kinds of freedom and opportunity for free expression and free living that...
KING: So therefore, Mel, would you say that...
MARTINEZ: ... that -- I'm sorry.
KING: ... we should take in any children from China, North Korea, North Vietnam, any one of them? Doesn't matter? You're talking about the spots (ph), right?
MARTINEZ: Right. Let me say that when I came to this country under the Kennedy administration, over 14,000 of us came alone without our parents and were welcomed by this country with the help of the Catholic Church, because a lot of what was going on in Cuba, which is still going on today, is religious repression. Now, the fact of the matter is...
KING: That's going in North Korea, and it's going in China, and it's going on in...
KING: ... so would you take in all children from those countries? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) question?
MARTINEZ: I believe -- I believe that the Statue of Liberty stands for what it means. And I for one am prepared to open my arms and my hands. I've done it for Vietnamese refugees. I helped resettle Vietnamese refugees. People did it for me; I've done it for others. That's the -- the beauty and the magic of this country is the fact that we are a land of opportunity for people from other lands.
KING: Is that not a good point, Cynthia?
RANGEL: Larry... KING: Hold on, Charlie.
ALKSNE: It's a good point, but the caller has made a better point and really put her finger on something important. And that is that people are being treated differently -- this child is being treated differently because he's a political football. And in any other situation, but for the fact he's been involved -- he's discussed now in the presidential debates and on Larry King Live and on all the TV channels, he would be back with his father in Cuba. And that's where he would be. But if we're going to apply the laws equally -- and that's an important concept that we have in this country -- if we're going to apply the laws equally, then he should go back, even though it pulls at our heart strings and he's an adorable child. And we would all like to have all the kids in Cuba here and all the kids from North Korea, and we'd like to give them shares of Microsoft while we're at it.
That is not the situation. That is not our legal situation. And we must apply things equally in order for people to have faith in our justice system.
KING: Mel, why did you say that's silly?
MARTINEZ: Well, because the Cuban Adjustment Act does account for differences between Cuban migration and migration from other countries. And it does because the Cold War still rages in Cuba.
You know, we have a situation in Cuba where the Florida Straits are the dividing line, just like the Berlin Wall was in Berlin. And it would be unthinkable to think that if a child, a mother and child were trying to jump the wall, the mother died and was shot atop of the wall and the child fell to the side of freedom, that we would just simply toss the child back. That's just not the way things are done.
ALKSNE: We would if the...
MARTINEZ: And you know, you need to know the Cuban Adjustment Act does treat Cuban immigrants differently if they arrive in this country. And the fact is...
ALKSNE: And I understand that. But unaccompanied children who come who have fathers who love them, who have been involved in rearing them and caring for them, we return those children and they should be returned. It is the best thing to do for that child.
MARTINEZ: You know, my mother and father loved me dearly. They loved me so much that they put me on a plane and sent me to America, where I didn't see them for over four years, at the height of the Cold War. And they did that because they loved me.
ALKSNE: Yes, but this child's father did not put him on a plane. This child's father...
MARTINEZ: Well, do you know if the child's father knew that he was coming?
Do you know that?
ALKSNE: No, but at this point -- no, but at this point it doesn't matter. Either he knew he was coming...
ALKSNE: Let me finish please, sir.
ALKSNE: Either he knew he was coming and the situation is dramatically changed -- now he no longer has any immediate family here. These people are great uncles that he's never seen before who are caring for him now. And the father is...
MARTINEZ: Well, he is with children...
ALKSNE: Let me finish. The father is perfectly capable of saying, hey, I want my child back, he's been through a terrible trauma, he needs to be in my arms. And that's what the father is saying.
MARTINEZ: But what he's not -- what he's not perfectly -- what the father is not capable of doing is in an atmosphere of freedom to say what he really wants for his child. And I'm surprised that you as the former prosecutor...
KING: I'm going to get a break...
MARTINEZ: ... do not want this child to have due process in the Florida courts.
KING: All right. We'll take a break and we'll be back with more. Don't go away.
KING: Springfield, Virginia, hello.
CALLER: Hi. My question is, is if this does go to the family courts, what are the chances of moving it out of the Miami area to a jurisdiction that does not have the influence of the Cuban exile community?
KING: Charlie, how about that?
CALLER: So we can get a fair trial for the father.
KING: Can they change venue in family court, Charlie Rangel?
RANGEL: It would seem to me that no family court would have jurisdiction over federal law, especially a treaty. It would be the federal court that would have to interpret that.
But I'd sure like to take advantage of this opportunity to say to Mel that if he's willing to open up his heart to every Cuban kid that manages to reach the mainland, he is really sending an invitation to those poor Cubans, many of whom have risked their lives before on these rickety rafts and lost their lives, in order to come here.
If we don't obey the law, our law and the treaty we have with Cuba, then it means that other Cubans might think all they have to do is to get into one of these rafts or get into one of these balloons and try to make it here. And that would be a dangerous thing to do.
MARTINEZ: Congressman Rangel, I couldn't agree with you more. I think that's a very dangerous course for anyone to take. And I, myself, my own family had to weigh those kinds decisions at one time, and it was not a decision that they chose to make. And I would certainly agree with you that it's a very dangerous course. And only the total desperation of the Cuban people drives them to do that.
And my hope is that we will see a free and democratic Cuba in the not too distant future, so that this entire tragedy would never be visited again.
KING: Houston, Texas -- hello.
CALLER: Yes, hello, Larry. Good program.
I have a question and then I had a comment that I'd like to make. First, a question to Mr. Eig, the lawyer. Nothing's been said about the relatives or the grandparents on the mother's side of the kid and what -- I mean, all you hear is from the dad. But I'm sure that those grieving grandparents in Cuba also have something to say, however nothing comes out of Cuba to that effect. And I'd like to have his opinion on that.
Also, let me just say that like Mr. Martinez I am a young Cuban- American who came to this country at the age of 11. And let me tell you one thing: I had more self-determination at that age than his father has in Cuba, because there's no such thing as fatherhood in Cuba. The main father in Cuba is Fidel Castro, and he is the one that makes all the decisions. I submit to you that if his father were given the chance to...
KING: OK, I got no time for a speech, but I appreciate the thoughts. You want to answer, Spencer?
EIG: Yes, I do. It would be great if not only Elian's father but his grandparents also and Elian's father's new wife and his new baby would all come here together and participate in this process. That way, the whole family can be reunited here, at least for the purposes of determining what's in the best interests for Elian's future. And that way, they'll all be able to speak freely because they will have left no hostages behind in Fidel Castro's hands.
KING: We'll get a final comment from everybody, I hope, after we take this break. Don't go away.
KING: Cynthia Alksne, how do you think this is going to be resolved?
ALKSNE: I think Elian will go home. Eventually, there will be a final ruling that it's in the best interest of the child to be with his father and that all we're doing now is not letting him heal and get better in postponing the reunification with his family.
KING: Georgina Cid-Cruz in Miami, how do you think it's going to come out?
CID-CRUZ: I think he's going to stay here, and his father's going to come with all his family so he can join Elian here in a free country.
KING: Reverend Campbell, what are your thoughts as to where all this is going?
BROWN-CAMPBELL: I think there's a strong, loving family back there in Cardenas. I think they have their arms outstretched waiting for this little boy. That's home for him, that's where he belongs, that's where I think he will go, because I believe the INS was right, and the INS did careful work in trying to talk to the father and to figure out that he was a good father, this is where he belongs.
KING: Mel Martinez, what do you think is going to happen?
MARTINEZ: Larry, I hope that the court process will be allowed to unfold itself, and I'll be willing to live with whatever our courts do. I am a lawyer, I believe in the rule of law, and just so he gets a fair and open hearing in court and let the chips fall where they may. And I believe at the end of the day if the father comes with the rest of his family, he'll do what he tried to do on several occasions in the past, which is apply for a visa to stay here.
KING: Congressman Rangel, where do you think it's going?
RANGEL: I think the law will prevail. The child will be returned to his father. And I just hope that the kid would not be emotionally scarred because some people have sought to make a political football out of a very tragic case.
KING: By the way, you say return. Do you ever see the possibility of something like troops having to escort him or federal officials or marshals having to take him to an airport with protesters standing around? Can you picture that kind of horrific scene?
RANGEL: No, I hope not. There's enough respect for the law...
KING: Well, they have to come and remove him, right? They would have to come and remove him from where he... RANGEL: There's enough -- I think even the people in Miami that feel very strongly against the Cuban government will have enough respect for the American law. As even Dan Burton has said, that they would respect the court decision. And we respect our country's decision, whether they agree with Clinton or not, he's the president of the United States.
KING: Spencer Eig, do you think if that were the eventual resolve, he could peacefully go back?
EIG: If the ultimate result is that he is to be reunited with his father, then his father, I think, would be best to come here and accomplish that.
But we have to remember that there is no binding order now that Elian leave the United States. He will be here on Monday with his family. He'll be going to school on Monday. Friday is not a deadline. Elian has a great future, and I think it's going to be here in the United States.
KING: But if it were -- if he were bound over to go back, you don't have to picture marshals having to take to him to an airplane, do you?
EIG: No, I don't. This whole situation is about love of law, of freedom and of democracy. The Cuban exiles, the Gonzalez family and all of his attorneys are all believers in the democratic process and in freedom. We intend to use it to protect Elian as much as possible, and we expect that we'll be successful.
KING: Cynthia, we'll close with you. There seems to be a Solomonesque answer to this somewhere. Some wise person has to sit down and try to make everybody content. Is that possible or impossible?
ALKSNE: I think it's possible. Somehow, he has to be reunited with his father. And you touched on something early in the show that I think is a good ending, and that is that we need also to honor his mother's memory and her sacrifice as a mother. That touches me. And perhaps the answer then is to give Elian citizenship when he's 18 and his family or something at a later date. So that's an option for him, if he goes back to Cuba.
KING: You mean offer -- you mean actually proclaim that...
ALKSNE: Proclaim it.
KING: ... to offer him citizenship at 18 so that he's of free mind and will to come here if he wishes.
ALKSNE: That's right.
KING: I thank you all very much for an intriguing hour. I hope we've benefited the audience too with some more knowledge of all this with, earlier, Dan Burton and then Charles Rangel and Joan Brown Campbell and Mel Martinez and Georgina Cid-Cruz and Spencer Eig and Cynthia Alksne. We thank them all for being with us.
Stay tuned now for CNN NEWSSTAND.
I'm Larry King.
Tomorrow night, the duchess of York.
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