Yearning to breathe free

By Charles Bloomer
web posted January 17, 2000

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)

These words are permanently engraved in the granite pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. But for Elian Gonzalez, they might as well be carved in soft butter and left on a hot sidewalk in Miami.

The Statue of Liberty is the symbol of freedom known around the world. Protestors in Tianenmen Square carried effigies of the statue. Millions of immigrants have breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the statue, knowing that they could soon enjoy the freedom for which America is famous.

But President Clinton, Janet Reno, and the INS have betrayed the symbol and substance of freedom that the Statue of Liberty represents. They are more interested in the opinion of a communist tyrant than they are in granting freedom to a six year old boy. They would rather send this boy back to a communist dictatorship than to upset a totalitarian tyrant who has spent his whole life hating America.

No one should be surprised at the INS decision to send Elian back to Cuba. This administration never misses a chance to pander to a communist dictator. Whether it's high technology exports to China, nuclear reactors for North Korea, or millions of US taxpayer dollars to be squandered in the rathole that is Russia, the president and his minions never fail to acquiesce to communist desires.

The president said he wanted to leave politics out of Elian's case. But he assured this case would become political when he declared that the INS had jurisdiction and would make the decision. The president did not want a state family court in Florida to embarrass him in front of the communist leader of Cuba. The president wanted to ensure that his reputation remained in good stead with Fidel Castro. And that could only be done if the case were assigned to an agency that the president controlled.

Hiding behind "family values", the INS declared that Elian would be better off in Cuba with his father. The INS even went to Cuba to interview the father. Of course, the father said he wanted Elian to return. Never mind that Cuba is an authoritarian, communist dictatorship. Never mind that the father dared not contradict the decision that his government had already made for him. Never mind that he would put his life, and the lives of his new family, in danger if he dared say he would rather have his son live in a free country. But the INS believes that the father's statements, even if made under duress, are sufficient.

The president and his followers seem to have a visceral hatred for American values – freedom, liberty, truth, justice. How else can we explain the condemnation of a young boy to a lifetime of misery and slavery? This administration ignores the human rights violations of China and North Korea. The president freed the Marxist terrorists of the FALN. Obviously, Cuban exiles are not significant contributors to the president's campaign fund or a voting bloc in New York State.

The president, attorney general, and the INS need to rethink their decision. Maybe it would help if they took a little field trip to the Statue of Liberty. There they could read the inscription and ponder the consequences of their actions. They could consider the millions who have risked everything to escape the darkness of tyranny to come to America and live in freedom.

The president needs to read the Declaration of Independence, especially the part that says that all men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights", including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". This includes 6 year old Cuban refugees.

Incredibly, a recent poll claims that 52 per cent of respondents agree that Elian Gonzalez should be returned to Cuba. Apparently Americans take freedom for granted and forget that our concept of liberty is unique in the world. Freedom feels natural to those of us who live here. The tyranny and oppression in communist states such as Cuba appear to exist outside our perception. Americans who have never lived outside our borders seem unable to comprehend the existence of countries where freedom and liberty do not exist, where conditions warrant risking life to escape.

Elian's mother and stepfather died attempting to bring Elian to freedom. They understood what would be best for the boy. They calculated that the risks they were taking were worth the chance to live freely. Their deaths will now be for nothing if the president has his way.

America should lift its lamp beside the golden door. We should let Elian breathe free.

© 2000 Charles Bloomer. Mr. Bloomer can be reached at

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