Smith Relays Cuban Boy's Plea to Stay in US

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - After meeting with six-year-old shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez Saturday, Senator Bob Smith, (R-NH), reported the boy's plea to stay in the United States with his relatives and not be returned to communist Cuba, where his father still resides.

"I want you to know that Elian said to me 'Ayudame, Senor Smith. Por favor.' ("Help me, Mr. Smith. Please')" said Smith after meeting with Elian at his relatives' home in Miami where the child is staying. According to multiple news sources, the boy also told Smith in Spanish: "I don't want to go back to Cuba."

On Wednesday the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) ruled that the boy, whose mother and 10 other people drowned in the Florida Straits trying to escape Fidel Castro's dictatorship in Cuba when the boat they were being smuggled in capsized, should be returned to his father in Cuba. Elian Gonazlez and two adults survived the tragic voyage.

"This is a good family. I saw enough and heard enough to know he wants to stay in America," said Smith, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the INS.

After talking with the boy and his relatives in Miami, Smith said there is evidence that the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, may have supported the mother's attempt to escape Cuba with Elian in tow. Smith has vowed to do everything he can keep the child in the U.S.

Lawyers for the boy's great-uncle, Lazero Gonzalez, have filed a petition asking that he be named legal guardian for Elian. A ruling is expected early this week.

Meanwhile, demonstrations in Miami demanding that the boy be kept in the U.S. have reportedly been suspended. In Cuba there have been counter-demonstrations calling for the immediate return of the boy.

On Friday, Rep. Dan Burton, (R-IN), issued a subpoena to have the boy testify before a House committee on Feb. 10.

President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno have both shown support for an INS ruling that Elian be sent back to Cuba by January 14.