Rep. Barbara Lee Calls for Cuban Boy's Return Home

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Shortly after travelling to Cuba to meet with the father of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old who has recently been at the center of an international custody battle, Rep. Barbara Lee said Saturday the boy should be returned to Cuba.

During a town hall meeting, Lee called the situation a "very severe humanitarian crisis" and criticized the U.S. government for its handling of the case.

"There is no way the government is going to use this child as a political football," she said.

Lee said her visit to Cuba convinced her that Gonzalez would have a better life there than in Miami, where he is currently living with relatives.

"The pain and suffering that this family is going through is unexplainable," she said. "He has a good family, good teachers and a doctor."

As a trained social worker, Lee said she is confident Gonzalez' father, Juan Gonzalez, is completely fit to raise his son based on the time she spent with him.

"I am appalled at how the rights of Elian's father continue to be violated," Lee said in a statement. "With the passing of Elian's mother, traditional family law requires that custody of a child be afforded to the living parent, unless that parent is unfit to care for the child. There have been no conditions (or) concerns raised about Mr. Gonzalez's personal ability to raise his son competently."

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice decided that Gonzalez had the sole legal authority to speak on behalf of his son regarding his immigration status, Lee said.

After much media exposure, protests and interviews, the final custody decision should be made quickly in order to minimize possible trauma to the boy, she said.

"We must consider the potentially damaging and adverse impacts of all this negative activity," Lee said. "I urge for Elian's expeditious return to his father, family, community and familiar environment."

Lee traveled to Cuba with one of her congressional colleagues and a Cleveland, Ohio, city councilman. In addition to meeting with the boy's father, the group also met with several other family members.


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