If He Had Fled Mexico, Elian Would Be a Nobody
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 100 21:13:36 -0700
Subject: If He Had Fled Mexico, Elian Would Be a Nobody
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The San Jose Mercury News February 20, 2000
IF HE HAD FLED MEXICO, ELIAN WOULD BE A NOBODY
By Gabrielle Banks
With the current media frenzy over the custody of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez,
I got to thinking what would happen if, instead of landing in Florida,
Elian had shown up in California?
What if, on Thanksgiving Day, a rusty, dilapidated van under hot pursuit
by the Border Patrol, had plowed into the median of Interstate 5, killing
10 people, including Elian's mother and her boyfriend? There would be no
bleary-eyed testimonials from witnesses that Elian's van was guided along
the freeway by angelic Ford Escorts.
Or, what if Elian had crossed the border on foot, past the new and improved
14-foot fence, along the rustic mountain route, only to be discovered by
a livid dentist whose petunias he had brazenly trampled? Would the neighbors
drop by with toys and homemade pies? Would Mexican expatriates extol the
virtues of the boy's mother for fleeing dire poverty under a
less-than-democratic one-party government?
In former Gov. Pete Wilson's utopian California, the West Coast Elian would
be barred from school and turned away from getting his cuts and bruises
treated at the local clinic. Rep. Dan Burton, Sen. Jesse Helms and Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott would declare that Elian's reunification with
his great-uncle was putting an unacceptable strain on federal resources.
President Clinton, of course, wouldn't take a stand. Attorney General Janet
Reno would wait it out. And on the day of Elian's capture, Mexican President
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon would be sure to have his top aides monitoring
the U.S. press for any sign of fluctuation in the price of silicon chips.
"Dateline NBC" would not be digging up home movies of Elian's childhood in
the slums of Mexico City. There'd be no talk of his mother's dying wish to
settle in the United States. Instead, mothers would publicly criticize her
for risking such a perilous trip with a child in tow. There would be no
outrage over the boy's right to live a life free from the universal tyranny
of poverty. No one would take advantage of the open opportunity to question
the long-standing U.S. embargo on humane border policy.
The truth is, if Elian came to California, he would disappear into oblivion.
He'd be called an alien instead of a refugee. If Elian's dad wanted him
back, he wouldn't even have to ask. By the time Mr. Gonzalez got to the
processing station at the border, he'd be just in time to meet Elian as he
stepped off the first police wagon back.
San Francisco writer Gabrielle Banks has been a teacher and community
organizer on both sides of the border. Her article "The Tattooed
Generation: Salvadoran Children Bring Home American Gang Culture" is in
the current issue of Dissent magazine.
© 2000 Peter Langston