Gore endorses permanent resident status for Elian, family members
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Breaking with the administration, Vice President Al
Gore said Thursday that U.S. immigration laws "may not be broad enough" to deal
appropriately with the Elian Gonzalez case, and endorsed legislation that would give the boy, his father and several other family members permanent resident status in the United States.
That legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Bob Graham of
Florida and Republican Bob Smith of New Hampshire.
In a statement, Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president,
said, "From the very beginning, I have said that the Elian Gonzalez case is at
heart a custody matter. It is a matter that should be decided by courts that
have the experience and expertise to resolve custody cases -- with due process,
and based on Elian's best interests.
"It now appears that our immigration laws may not be broad enough to allow
for such an approach in Elian's case."
The legislation would give Elian, his father, stepmother, grandmothers and
grandfather permanent resident status so, in Gore's words, "this case can be
Gore's statement went on to say the "real fault in this case lies with the
oppressive regime of Fidel Castro. Elian should never have been forced to
choose between freedom and his own father. Now we must take actions, here on
our own shores, to make sure Elian's best interests are served."
That would mean, according to Gore advisers, that the vice president
believes the case is better resolved in Florida's family courts -- a clear break from administration policy.
Gore's statement was released by his campaign a short time after the
administration position was criticized by GOP presidential candidate George W.
President Bill Clinton said at his news conference Wednesday that everyone involved in the case should honor the rulings issued in the federal court proceedings now underway. The administration successfully challenged the jurisdiction of Florida's family courts and said that, as an immigration issue, the case belonged in the federal courts.
White House spokesman Jake Siewert told CNN, "Clearly the vice president
has a different position than the president. We have said from the beginning of
this campaign that he would disagree with us from time to time."
With 25 electoral votes, Florida is a critical November battleground and
Gore has vowed to contest the state despite its generally Republican leanings,
and the support Bush gets from his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.