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Cuban-Americans Remember Elian Gonazlez One Year after the Raid
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

One year after the raid that removed Elian Gonzalez from the home of his uncle in Miami and reunited him with his father, anger over the incident is still strong in the Cuban American community. Last weekend a number of people gathered at the former home of Lazaro Gonzalez in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami.

Elian survived a shipwreck that killed his mother, and was rescued by two fishermen last November. He was placed in the temporary custody of his uncle, who quickly made clear his intention that Elian remain in the US. The INS determined that Elian, at six years old, was too young to file his own asylum application and that his uncle could not file one for him. The Miami family was ordered to relinquish him so he could be with his father, who had come to the US from Cuba. They refused, leading to the raid.

Elian rapidly became a symbol for both the Cuban-American community and the Cuban government. Fidel Castro used the incident to renew his attacks on the US government and anti Cuban groups in the US argued that it would be wrong to return the boy to the Communist dictatorship, especially when his mother had died trying to bring him to the US.

In all the emotional turmoil created by the case, the law was often overlooked. And even when it wasnít, it quickly became clear that the INS did not have rules to deal with the case of an unaccompanied child as young as Elian. Since the incident, the INS has developed rules for dealing with similar situations. One of the most important changes is that the agency is now required to check with a parent, even if the parent is not in the US, before placing the child with family in the US. The agency believes that if it had first contacted his father, the entire situation could have been avoided.

Many say that the raid was responsible for costing former Vice-President Al Gore the election, even though he supported proposals to allow Elian to remain in the US. Cuban-Americans voted overwhelmingly for President Bush. Others, however, argue that because Cuban-Americans have always voted mostly for Republicans, the incident had little impact. Yet, because of the closeness of the vote in Florida, just a few hundred votes could have changed the results.

Lazaro Gonzalez and his family moved out of the Little Havana shortly after the raid, and it is now being converted into a museum documenting the struggle of Cuban-Americans.


About The Authors

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defenderís office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com


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