Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Court in the balance," April 1, 2000

Federal court backs Reno's attempt to remove Elian
Strike two
Castro sí, Elián no. Federal judge Michael Moore took nearly two weeks to side with the Clinton administration and Fidel Castro: He dismissed a lawsuit brought by the family of Elián Gonzalez to keep the 6-year-old in the United States. The judge upheld on March 21 Attorney General Janet Reno's January order that the 6-year-old Cuban be returned to his father's custody in Cuba. Judge Moore's opinion pays respect to the little boy's "survival and courage" and his American family's good intentions, but in the end characterizes the opposing arguments in the case as morally equivalent: "In the final analysis, a well-intended lawsuit filed on behalf of and for the benefit of Elián Gonzalez ran headlong into an equally well-intended attorney general, sworn to uphold the letter and spirit of the immigration law...." Judge Moore said his review of the case "found no abuse" that would warrant overturning immigration decisions. "Therefore," he concluded, "Plaintiff, now six years old, is an unaccompanied, unadmitted alien, subject to removal from the United States at the end of his period of temporary parole." Miami relatives of Elián, who believe that his father does not really want him returned to Cuba but is acting under coercion from the Castro regime, immediately announced their intention to appeal the decision. Despite the negative outcome, the lengthy decision by Judge Moore left open several windows of opportunity on appeal.

  • The judge, for instance, rejected one of the Justice Department motions, which claimed that review of the case was outside the court's jurisdiction.
  • He also affirmed the standing in court of Lazaro Gonzalez, Elián's great-uncle and present guardian, to represent the boy as "an appropriate next friend." That conclusion may invite a challenge on appeal from Elián's father, who maintains that he has sole custody of Elián but has thus far remained in Cuba and has taken no steps-legal or otherwise-to retrieve his son. In a footnote to the decision, Judge Moore stated, "The Court again observes that Juan Gonzalez has filed no motion to intervene, or other challenge to the ability of Lazaro Gonzalez to speak for Plaintiff in the context of the above-captioned action."
  • In deciding the case, the judge accepted the testimony of INS officials, who concluded that Juan Gonzalez was not acting under duress during INS interviews with him in Cuba. That assertion went against an affidavit filed in the case by Jeanne O'Laughlin, the Dominican nun and Barry University president who hosted a meeting between Elián and his two grandmothers in Florida in January.

In the affidavit, which remained sealed until the judge's ruling, Sister O'Laughlin said her own position on the case, which she had viewed as "a straightforward custody issue," changed after "witnessing the fear which existed in the eyes of Elián's grandmothers." Sister O'Laughlin testified that the grandmothers were clearly intimidated after a private meeting with Odel Marichal, a member of the Cuban National Assembly and of the Cuban National Council of Churches, and with the former head of the National Council of Churches in the United States, Joan Brown Campbell. Sister O'Laughlin stated that current NCC head Bob Edgar admitted to her during the grandmothers' visit that "Castro himself was calling the shots" in the Gonzalez case. In Washington, lawmakers who support a bill to grant citizenship to Elián, which would overrule immigration decisions to send him back to Cuba, said they would not push legislation until court remedies were exhausted. According to Nancy Segerdahl, an aide to Sen. Connie Mack, chief sponsor of the bill, the court decision "just makes us review where it stands. At this point we are watching the legal scenarios and want the family to be able to exercise all its rights." '60s radical caught, charged with murdering police officer
Rap sheet
Back in the 1960s, H. Rap Brown helped lead the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, but he didn't stay non-violent for long. He soon was the "justice minister" of the Black Panthers, telling his followers that "violence is as American as cherry pie." Ideas have consequences. And today a Georgia sheriff's deputy is dead. The current troubles of Mr. Brown, who now goes by the Muslim name "Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin," started last May. Police allegedly stopped him in a stolen car; he flashed a phony badge at them. When he didn't show up in court last January, an arrest warrant was issued. Mr. Al-Amin was charged with theft by receiving stolen property and impersonating an officer. Things got bloody when Fulton County deputies visited Mr. Al-Amin's Atlanta grocery store and tried to serve that warrant. As the deputies approached a black Mercedes-Benz, the driver got out and started shooting a high-powered assault rifle. When it was over, Deputy Ricky Kinchen was dead and fellow officer Aldranon English (who identified the shooter as Mr. Al-Amin) was wounded. Mr. Al-Amin was next seen 160 miles away near Montgomery, Ala., where he had Muslim contacts. He wasn't hidden long. On March 20, a team of U.S. Marshals spotted him; they say he began shooting and ran into a wooded area, where after more shots they apprehended him. Mr. Al-Amin's attorney, J. L. Chestnut, told the Selma Times-Journal that his client is a "black man framed by the system." He claims the ex-revolutionary is innocent: "He said he did not shoot anyone. He said he did not have a gun. He fled Atlanta to save his life. He said they had been trying to kill him for years. He said it was a real conspiracy." Members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim American Society said they would start a legal defense fund for Mr. Al-Amin. Ignoring Greenspan's yellow light
Alright already
Alan Greenspan said it was coming. The Federal Reserve raised the cost of borrowing-again-in its latest attempt to protect the American economy from overheating. The central bank raised the rate that banks charge on overnight loans from 5.75 percent to 6 percent in the name of stopping inflation. That boost pressed commercial banks, led by Bank of America and Wells Fargo, to raise their prime lending rates-the benchmark for millions of consumer and business loans-to 9 percent, the highest level in five years. Still more hikes are threatened for May 16 and June 28 if the prospect of inflation remains. Mr. Greenspan's argument boils down to a claim that the economy is growing dangerously fast. The Fed's big enemy is the so-called "wealth effect," where the technology-driven boom lets people have more money to spend. "People see the value of their stocks going up consistently," said Alan Skrainka, chief economist for Edward Jones in St. Louis, describing the wealth effect. "They don't mind spending a little of that money with the local retailer." Investors took the news of the rate hike and sent the stock market up, not down. Mr. Greenspan's threats have already spawned a few market corrections, which means bargain-hunting time on Wall Street. The supposedly out-of-control technology stocks were a little shaken, but still strong. The average Joe, however, will face higher mortgage rates and jacked-up credit-card interest.

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