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When you think of Eric Holder, please remember Elian Gonzalez

When you think of Eric Holder, please remember Elian Gonzalez

Don’t let that pre-Attorney General debacle go down the memory hole.

As we count down Eric Holder’s greatest hits, the first image that comes to the mind of many Americans isn’t that of Brian Terry, or of Black Panthers outside polling places, but of a screaming child staring down the barrel of a rifle.

On April 22, 2000, just before dawn, U.S federal agents executed a full-blown raid on the home of five year old Elian Gonzalez, seizing the child and setting in motion procedures to send Elian and his father back to Cuba.

I was only a freshman in high school when this happened, but I remember seeing news stories about what it meant to be a refugee from Cuba, and wondering why in the world the government would ignore everything that this kid had been through. Why were they taking him away from his family? Why was there so much yelling? Why were they pointing a gun at a kid who was younger than my baby cousin?

Why? This is Eric Holder’s legacy.

The Elian Gonzalez case predates Holder’s tenure as Attorney General, but even before his appointment to the DoJ, Holder displayed a stunning lack of accountability and a tone deaf attitude toward those who dared to question the decisions of the Department of Justice:

In the period before armed agents seized the child, the Justice Department had been leaking its intention to avoid any sort of armed intervention. It would all be done quietly, they suggested. When top Department officials were asked about it, they said nothing to change that impression. About two weeks before the raid, Tim Russert asked Holder, “You wouldn’t send a SWAT team in the dark of night to kidnap the child, in effect?” Holder answered, “No, we don’t expect anything like that to happen.” Then the Department did precisely that. The day after the seizure, Holder appeared again with Russert, who asked, “Why such a dramatic change in position?” “I’m not sure I’d call it a dramatic change,” Holder answered. “We waited ’til five in the morning, just before dawn.”

The dramatic nature of the DoJ’s raid aside, what’s important to remember about what happened in the Elian Gonzalez case is Holder’s failure to enforce immigration law, and to recognize Gonzalez’s status as a refugee, and instead choosing to focus on the parental rights of Elian Gonzalez’s father.

This shift in focus tore a family apart, and set events in motion that have led to Elian (now 20 years old) being used as a tool of the Castro regime:

Gonzalez said he blamed the US for the death of his mother, who drowned along with nine other people en route to Florida 14 years ago. “Just like her, many others have died attempting to go to the United States,” Gonzalez said. “But it’s the US government’s fault. Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba.”

Gonzalez is in Ecuador for the World Festival of Youths and Students, which he’s been asked to speak at. “The main reason we’re here is because we want a revolutionary progressive movement that leads to socialism,” he says. And no, he’s not upset the US sent him back; he describes Cuban life as “magnificent,” and says being dragged from his relatives’ home at gunpoint left no mental scars.

The hostile relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has long been the cause of broken families, and when Holder ignored the law and allowed Elian to be taken back to Cuba, he allowed Castro to score a political point on behalf of a dangerous, oppressive regime.

This is the man who spent six years as Barack Obama’s confidant and #1 law enforcement officer. Holder has resigned, but nothing can change what happened to Elian and his family, and the events he set in motion by allowing the law (and the best interests of a small child) to be set aside.


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A small detail, perhaps, but I’d also like to bring up how close to murder that “jackbooted thug” came. This happened in truly unusual circumstances, with plenty of (often brutalized in the raid) supporters present, including the man with a very good camera taking that picture and others.

We gunnies analyzed the sequence he took, and noted the MP5 submachine gun was off safe, and the thug didn’t have it under control, the butt of the stock is just barely hanging there on the cloth of the outer part of his arm.

A reflexive grasp of his hand could have resulted in his forefinger entering the trigger guard and depressing the trigger, upon which bullets would have been “sprayed” in an arc hitting the fisherman holding Elian. Based on the full set of photos, we couldn’t determine if the thug ever covered Elian with the muzzle, but the Rules of Engagement the thug was following satisfies the “evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life” we learned all about in Legal Insurrection’s stellar coverage of L’affaire Zimmerman.

Well, Amy, I also remember where I was when all this happened. I remember very well.

You see, I was in Cuba. I was born there. I lived there for 35 years.
I know exactly what it’s like to be “a refugee from Cuba.”
I know exactly what it’s like to be Cuban living inside the communist island.
I know exactly what it’s like to wake up every morning not knowing if you’ll make it through the day without being locked up in jail.

All that said, I have an issue with your:

Why were they taking him away from his family?

and your:

Holder’s failure to enforce immigration law, and to recognize Gonzalez’s status as a refugee, and instead choosing to focus on the parental rights of Elian Gonzalez’s father.

I am sorry, but as despicable as Elian’s father was, and still is, he IS the father, that is, his immediate family.
People from Cuba are not animals or savages, not even those stupid enough to show support for the communist tyranny. There is no right to deprive any of them of their parental rights. US immigration laws should not have precedence over the parental rights of citizens of other countries.

Returning Elian Gonzales to Cuba was the right thing to do. Doing it at gunpoint was questionable. That I admit.

    It would have been good if Reno/Holder had arranged for the father to sit down and talk about the situation with the extended family members who were caring for Elian. I don’t suppose Fidel would have liked that, though.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Reticulator. | September 26, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      Yes, there were steps that could have been taken that weren’t. The Clinton administration appeared to be working hand-in-glove with the Cuban government, with no regard for how the situation might have been resolved with Elian’s best interests in mind. To listen to him speak today, it’s apparent that the Cuban government has done a number on him – he’s the victim of state programming and mind-control. And it was all possible because of Clinton, Reno, and Holder. They delivered a small boy to a totalitarian regime, and that regime has had its way with him since then.

        Exiliado in reply to DaveGinOly. | September 26, 2014 at 11:22 pm

        he’s the victim of state programming and mind-control

        Who cares?

        There are many others like him, idiotic brainwashed robots.
        But that’s what his father chose for him.

        Why not worry about the many children retained in Cuba against their parents’ wishes?
        What about the families divided because the communist don’t allow family members in or out of Cuba?

        Eric Holder is a SOB. That doesn’t mean that we have to oppose EVERYTHING that he did. There’s plenty of wrongdoing to choose from.

          DaveGinOly in reply to Exiliado. | September 27, 2014 at 1:02 am

          What kind of question is that? All the children in Cuba are not our government’s responsibility, nor ours. What the Cuban government does to its own people is not our responsibility (no matter how much, or how little, we care about them), it’s the responsibility of the Cuban government (if I had to spell that out for you). Elian was here, and had at least the potential to stay here. That’s why some of us care about him in particular. We can’t save the world, but we blew an opportunity to save one child.

      The father was not willing to negotiate with the extended family. He wanted his son back in Cuba. Nothing to be done.

        So Janet Reno told us. It might even be true, but she’s about as believable as Fidel. I think there were ways that that piece of information could have been verified, but such was not done.

          The father said it plenty of times, not Janet Reno.
          I am pretty sure you can look up videos from back then. You will hear it out of his own mouth.

    gospace in reply to Exiliado. | September 27, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Legally wrong on many points. Custody should have been determined, BY LAW, in a Florida family court, the location of Elian Gonzalez.

    Argument 1 against the father being granted custody- he was a baby daddy, living with another woman not the mother as Elian was born.

    Argument 2. By many published reports, he was not listed on the birth certificate as the father until AFTER Elian arrived in the United States. Before he was even granted the right to a custody hearing, paternity would have to be established by a DNA test.

    Argument 3. The mother was the sole custodial parent, without any argument from the “father”. In the case of death of a cusodial parent, the custodial parents wishes are to be taken into account. She risked and lost her life bringing Elian to the United States. A hard argument to counter that she wanted her child here. When she handed her child to others for care, she requested, by their testimony, that he be delivered to relatives in the United States, not returned to baby-daddy in Cuba. Few courts, if any, would award custody to baby-daddy in these circumstances. Surviving parent doesn’t cut it as an argument. Especially when the surviving parent had never previously tried to gain custody. ((An aside.) As a retired military member, I can assure you that ALL military personnel are advised that both they and their spouse specifically leave the other parent custody of their children in a will. Well more then one court has taken a child away from a widowed servicemember in the best interest of the child ebcasue the child wasn’t willed to him, and in the idiotic judgement of the court, a servicemember, especially sailors, are unsuitable parents becasue of long abscences required by the service.) The mother didn’t have a written will, but had expressed herself to others in what would be considered a dying statement what she thought was in the best interests of her child.

    Argument 4. Any US court, looking at the best interests of the child, would also take into account that Elian had already bonded with his caretaker who was who the mother directed the child be delivered to. The jackbooted thuigs who removed him at gunpoint under the direction of Janet Reno and her boss didn’t care about that.

    Argiment 5. Looking at the best intereste of teh child, Elian, the court would be looking at Cuba, known hellhole with no human rights, vs Florida, the United States. Ding-ding, ding-ding! The U.S. wins.

    Your argument is legally, morally, and ethically bankrupt. Elian and his father were not a family, Elian and his mother was.
    That pretty much covers it.

      Exiliado in reply to gospace. | September 27, 2014 at 12:41 am

      IANAL, are you?

      Maybe you want to read here.

        gospace in reply to Exiliado. | September 27, 2014 at 3:55 am

        A custody hearing, required by law, was never held. Your reference is legal opinion written to provide cover for what the administration wanted to do. It quotes Cuban Law to state that the father had the right to represent Elian- even though there were questions of legitamacy. Cuban law doesn’t apply in Florida. Or anywhere else in the United States for that matter. No court ever ruled on custody per se. Janet Reno and the Clinton adminstration were determined to return Elian to a Communist hellhole, and did so, under cover of law. But the law was not applied the way it should have been, starting in a Florida custody hearing then working its way up through the Federal courts.

        Yep, Elians dad was a great parent- which is why his name wasn’t on the birth certificate until after Elian arrived in the States. Elian was returned to Cuba on an asylum issue. The sourts ruled that since Mom was dead, her wishes should be disregarded, and the parent who never showed any interest in the child should receive custody under Cuban law. And no one else was authorized to speak for Elian, except that absent parent, becasue no one else had legal custody. Oh wait, a custody hearing was never held. A great landmark decision. That bypassed all U.S precedents on custody issues. Starting with the expressed wishes of the now deceased custodial parent.

      Exiliado in reply to gospace. | September 27, 2014 at 12:51 am

      By the way, your arguments are “legally, morally, and ethically bankrupt.”

      First, this is a settled issue. The courts ruled in favor of the biological father. There goes your “legally.”

      Second, you are asking to give the US a right to strip any foreign national of their parental rights based on what?
      On politics?
      On wealth?
      On ding, ding, ding, ding?
      “Morally” and “ethically”?

    LEEJAN in reply to Exiliado. | September 27, 2014 at 8:43 am

    How convenient of you to ignore one important fact. The father had given his blessing for the mother and little one to flee Cuba. He had called his Miami relatives to tell them they were on the way and he would soon follow.

    There is and never will be an excuse for throwing the little boy back to the wolves.

    The only good thing to come from that despicable act was the thousands of Cubans lined up to change their voter registration from democrat to republican.

    Despite the discounting all the military votes in Florida, the Cuban refugees gave us PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH.

      Exiliado in reply to LEEJAN. | September 27, 2014 at 9:20 am

      The little boy was sent back to his father.

      I don’t like it any more than you do.
      I am aware of the rumors (rumors, not fact), about him giving a blessing for the trip,and even going to say good bye to Elian and his mother.
      But those are just rumors, and legal decisions are not made based on rumors; not in a nation of laws.

      Personally, I would have liked it if the idiot had stayed here with his son. It would have been great if he had given interviews and denounced that he had to say this or that because Castro was pressuring him and/or making threats against the rest of his family. But THAT did not happen. He chose to go back to Cuba. It’s done.

It seems the Cuban government has turned Elian into a twisted mouthpiece for its own propaganda purposes. It’s interesting to see that, in the best traditions of our very own, home-grown socialists, the Democratic Party, he now spouts two completely different stories from the same mouth, and expects both to be believed – His mother fled from Cuba because the US embargo made living there hard, but life in Cuba is “magnificent.” Well, which is it? It can’t be both. One also wonders why anyone would flee to the state responsible for the misery in one’s own nation in search of relief. By rights, Elian’s mother should have hated the US for imposing such hardships upon her, her family, and her country. Somehow, I don’t think she actually saw things this way. Unfortunately, the mind-numbed robots that are the socialist/communist masses would never see these contradictions.

….send Elian and his father back to Cuba.

Tiny detail: they sent Elian to his father who lived back in Cuba. Yes, they flew from Andrews together, but that is an important detail to get right.

The reason they took him was because his natural father was in Cuba, and the family he was with in the US were more distant relatives. Although his father had come to DC to attempt to get his son back, his father was from Cuba, and they were flown back together only because he was returning to Cuba after Elian’s seizure.

A nightmare. I still remember it well.

(An aside: why is it there are always cameras in “just the right places” with these leftist folks……? The gun pointing at Elian’s face…..the arrest of the infamous “it was the video” film maker that Hillary et. al. swore was the reason for the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack……? It’s almost like the press was alerted to be “on the spot”…….. Very curious. Very curious.)

Oh, this is just one vignette in the public life and times of Eric Holder. He’s been a spear-carrier in many of the dramatic set-pieces of the Collective over decades.

He was a Greek chorus member in the Marc Rich pardon of stinking memory, among many other things, including defense of terrorists.

I remember when Elian was given back to his father. His mother lost her life and risked his young life trying to sneak into the USA illegally. The people in Florida who were keeping Elian were doing so against his father’s wishes as well as violating an order from the US government. They were defying the government and law enforcement by not turning him over to his father. These people were breaking the law by keeping Elian. The look of delight on Elian’s face when he was reunited with his father spoke volumes about that situation and what was the right thing to do.

    Exiliado in reply to mwsomerset. | September 26, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Just a minor correction:

    … trying to sneak into the USA illegally.

    That’s not 100% accurate.
    According to the law, Cuban nationals are eligible for parole upon entering U.S. soil, and legal residence after one year.

      mwsomerset in reply to Exiliado. | September 27, 2014 at 12:08 am

      True…but being on parole still indicates an illegal act. Isn’t it the general consensus about entering the USA to do so legally and to “get in line.” Some seem to have a problem with children from other countries coming into the USA via the southern border. As far as Cuba goes the USA needs to lift the embargo and remove all restrictions…we give China a pass why not Cuba.

        Exiliado in reply to mwsomerset. | September 27, 2014 at 12:32 am

        USA needs to lift the embargo and remove all restrictions…
        …we give China a pass why not Cuba.

        That’s your opinion.
        I respect it, but disagree.

        The Chinese residents in the US have not pushed for an embargo against Communist China.
        We Cubans did exactly that, via our elected officials/legislators.
        The Chinese made their choice, and we made ours.

        Based on your comment, you don’t seem have a problem doing business with a government that murders, imprisons and persecutes based on religious or political beliefs.
        You don’t have a problem because they did not murder somebody in your family.
        You don’t have a problem because they did not imprison you or some of your friends and family.
        You don’t have a problem because your family was not forcefully divided for a lifetime.
        You don’t have a problem because you live in a free country, so you have not been persecuted for your political beliefs.

        Are you willing to do business with Hamas?
        With Al Qaeda?
        With Isis?
        With the nazi?

        Why are you so insensitive towards the pain of an entire community?

          mwsomerset in reply to Exiliado. | September 27, 2014 at 3:57 pm

          The USA has a history of murdering family members and tearing families apart and imprisoning people not based on anything other than their race….Native Americans and African Americans would agree. I understand your pain but most countries that we do business with have committed atrocities towards their people at some time in history and some continue to do so. We rounded up and basically imprisoned all people of Japanese decent 70+ years ago even though they were Americans. Let’s not even discuss Saudi Arabia and what they do to women. They even got a pass for 9/11 because we love their oil so much.

          SmokeVanThorn in reply to Exiliado. | September 27, 2014 at 6:23 pm

          mwsomerset – Thank you for revealing yourself as the America hating leftist ninny you are.

Have to disagree with Holder being ‘tone deaf.’

He was hearing as clear as a bell. For some, they are just finally realizing the ‘tone’ the likes of the nose-picking Holder hear.,+picking+his+nose&client=palemoon&rls=Palemoon:en-US&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=k0MmVLfFAYudyATiyoGQBw&ved=0CCQQsAQ&biw=1680&bih=902

@Gospace: yours is the most relevant response. To it I would only add that when Elian’s father remarried in Cuba, the Cuban court refused to allow him to adopt the child of his new wife, on the grounds that the father had repeatedly beaten both Elian and Elian’s mother. Not only should the case have gone before a U.S. family court, but that court would, in line with the Cuban court decision, “never” have granted custody of Elian to his father. (Actually, Elian never really was returned to his father’s custody. He was entirely under Castro’s control).

One irony here is that Janet Reno built her career on the defense of abused women and children. It was Reno who judge-shopped in Miami, waiting until a judge would come on duty in the early morning that she could count on to do exactly what she had fought against in other cases – returning a child to an abusive parent.

I read this information in a long story in, of all places, the New York Times magazine section. It was rather an astonishing piece to find in a Democrat sycophantic publication.

…the Cuban court refused to allow him to adopt the child of his new wife, on the grounds that the father had repeatedly beaten both Elian and Elian’s mother.

You will have no problem providing evidence that this is true and not a product of your imagination. Will you?

Please go ahead and enlighten us.

    Excellent and well-supported posts. Thanks.

    Had you read my whole post, you would have seen that the information about Elian’s father is from an article in the New York Times magazine. It was published right around the time that the gov’t seized the child from the home in Miami.

    I should also have mentioned that when the raid took place, Janet Reno was on the phone with the family, assuring them that nothing would happen until the morning. If the raid was at 5 AM, I guess that was “morning” to her.

      Exiliado in reply to Digby. | September 28, 2014 at 8:47 am

      I did read your post.
      You SAY that you read it in some article.
      I think it’s a product of your imagination.

BannedbytheGuardian | September 27, 2014 at 5:54 pm

The US is a signatory to the international charter recognising the rights of a child from one nation to another without the permission of their legal guardian – to be returned .

It works in the USA’s favour when American children are taken out of the country illegally & returned to the relevant jurisdiction . ( it follows they are usually under a court order also ) .

For one Elian going out there are multiple children returned to their rightful homes in America.

Not that you lot are interested but we had a case recently where a mother stole her baby from the husband ( S C court granted him custody before birth because she was bi polar) .

She landed in a Brisbane by way of forged ID ,through various marriages via South Africa & NZ . The daughter is now 20 & lived her life under a false identity. A friend suspected the holes in the mother’s life story were suspicious ( a trace of American accent.) & contacted authorities .

It was found there was a 20 year old stolen baby case & this fitted . sC applied for extradition for he mother who tried to fight it but after 3 months of prison voluntarily left for the US to face justice.

The case of the 20 year old will be dealt with by non judicial means . She has been hostile to returning / meeting her father but can now resume her identity & regain her American citizenship in time.

The mother is a international criminal who deprived the girl o her rightful life -even though Qld is not a bad place to be!

Let us not forget that the Liberal Christian group, the National Council of Churches, pushed hard for Elian to be returned. I need here to clarify that the Liberal branches of Christianity and Judaism have replaced the Bible with the Democratic National Platform; they are not very related to actual Christianity or Judaism. That is why I always say that we would be better off if Obama really was a Muslim – Liberal Christian is a lot worse.

On the other hand, as Ann Coulter points out, it probably cost Gore the election.