(CNSNews.com) - Elian Gonzalez's grandmothers arrived in Miami on Monday hoping to visit the 6-year-old Cuban boat refugee for the first time in more than two months. However, the site of any reunion was in dispute.
Raquel Rodriguez and Mariela Quintana were invited to dinner on Monday at the home of Elian's relatives in Miami, who insisted the meeting take place there.
But federal officials said the grandmothers were hoping to meet privately with Elian at a neutral site.
The Miami relatives have been caring for Elian since he was found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving. His mother and 10 other Cubans died in their ill-fated attempt to reach the United States.
As Elian's grandmothers landed in Miami from New York, American congressmen were working to make sure they would not be able to take him back to Cuba. Representatives Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Peter Deutsch (D-FL) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) introduced legislation that would grant permanent residency status to Elian. That would mean the Immigration and Naturalization Service would no longer have the authority to order him back to Cuba.
Meanwhile, Senator Connie Mack (R-FL)., said he is preparing a bill to offer citizenship to Elian, but he said the move would not affect a court's decision to send him back.
"Whether he is a citizen or a permanent resident does not dictate the result that will be decided in court," Mack said at an afternoon press conference. It is not clear if the bill would have enough votes to pass.
Elian's father and grandmothers, all Cuban residents, have demanded that he be returned to Cuba immediately. His American relatives want him to stay in the US where they say he will have a happier, non-Communist future.
The INS has ruled that Elian must be sent back to Cuba to live with his father, but the Miami family is suing in federal court to block the boy's return.
"We are encouraged by the actions and conversations stimulated by our visit with Janet Reno," said the Reverend Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, which is sponsoring the grandmothers' visit. "We believe that the INS and the Justice Department are working on behalf of the grandmothers to have a meeting with Elian Gonzalez."
Earlier Monday on NBC's Today show, the grandmothers urged those members of Congress, who would favor the bill, to drop the effort.
"It will be more painful if he gets the citizenship," Rodriguez said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. "I'm asking the Congress people and people of the United States that have supported us to stop all this. Please, don't make us suffer any longer."