Father Knows Best?

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The federal government wants to end the Elian Gonzalez custody dispute in the next few days. On Sunday, Attorney General Janet Reno said she hopes such a resolution will happen in cooperation with the boy's Miami relatives who are now caring for him. Question is, are the Miami relatives ready to hand Elian over to his father, who wants to bring the boy back with him to Cuba?

Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, an attorney for the Miami relatives, told CBS News' Face The Nation on Sunday that the Florida family will let immigration officials pick up the child.

"The door won't even be locked," he said.

But the lawyer added Elian should have his day in court and the mental health experts should ask whether a transfer is "the right thing to do."

Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder replied those "threshold questions" have been asked - and answered.

"With Elian's knowledge his father is here in the United States, we have to effect this transfer, otherwise there is the possibility he will be harmed," Holder told Face The Nation.

Neither Holder nor Garcia-Pedrosa were worried about potential violence in the Miami area as a result of an Elian transfer.

But Holder said he was concerned about the psychological effect of bringing Elian through the crowd of protesters outside the home in Miami's Little Havana where the boy has been staying.

"What it would be like for a six-year-old to have to go through a crowd that if not violent might be yelling, screaming, and things like that. That's a situation we want to try to avoid."

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), who has met one-on-one with Juan Miguel Gonzalez, said the father is adamant claiming his son.

"We need to ask for this child to be delivered to a neutral place and then brought over to the father," Serrano told Face The Nation.

"This has to end. This is consuming too much time and too much energy in this country and just hurting too many people."

Serrano was asked whether he believed Elian's father was acting on his own free will - or under the thumb of Cuba's dictator, Fidel Castro.

The congressman said he raised that very question with Juan Miguel, telling him some people in Miami say that given a choice, he would stay in this country rather than take his son back to Cuba.

Serrano said before he finished, Elian's father "looked at me and saidÂ…in Spanish, 'For what?' He said, 'What? To be with those people?' He said, 'No, I want my child. I want him back.'"

Added Serrano about Elian's father, "The body language in Spanish from him and we spoke only in Spanish was, 'I just want to go home with my child and I want it now.'"

Garcia-Pedrosa, the Miami relatives' attorney, renewed claims that Juan Miguel has been an unfit, if not abusive, father.

"Conduct speaks louder than words. That has not been his conduct in the past. He was rying to sell his car for a while to buy a boat or find his way here (to the United States)Â…This is a man who needs to be evaluated himself."

But Holder said the government has seen no evidence of such allegations, which he noted were raised only recently.

"We've not heard, at least to my knowledgeÂ…anything he has done specifically."

Capitol Hill is taking a wait-and-see approach as the latest chapter of the Elian saga unfolds. But Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) told Face The Nation that many Americans forget there is no "moral equivalency" between the United States and Cuba.

"If he (Elian) goes back to Cuba, even with his father, he will be a ward of the state, and that worries a lot of us," added the senator.
Lott also called on Vice President Al Gore, who has split with the Clinton administration by calling for permanent residency status for Elian, to plead to the President to intervene.

"He could help," Lott said of Gore. "He was 50 miles from Miami yesterday and didn't have a thing to say about it."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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