Helms says he aims to offer U.S. citizenship to Elian Gonzalez
By Dana Bash/CNN
December 23, 1999
Web posted at: 5:22 p.m. EST (2222 GMT)
Washington (CNN) -- In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms (R), said Thursday that when Congress returns in January, he intends to introduce legislation offering U.S. citizenship to six-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was the sole survivor of a group of Cuban refugees -- including his mother -- who were attempting to flee to the U.S. by boat.
Helms, who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also asked the Justice Department for a "full and fair review" of Gonzalez's application for political asylum before the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service takes any action to return the boy to his father in Cuba. An INS meeting to discuss Gonzalez's status was postponed until late January.
"If an East German mother had died trying to cross the Berlin Wall
with her child, can you imagine for one instant throwing the child back over the Wall? Elian must not be thrown back over the wall simply because his mother did not survive crossing," wrote Helms.
The North Carolina Republican also urged Reno to allow Gonzalez's Cuban
family members, including his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez, to come to the U.S., "no strings attached," to meet with officials.
"While INS officials did meet with Mr. Gonzalez in Cuba, it is quite
possible that he will have a different perspective on the matter if his meeting with these officials could clearly be without fear or reprisal," wrote Helms.