Things That Matter

Twenty Years Ago The US Sided With Fidel Castro To Send Back Elián Gonzales, Here’s Why His Story Still Matters Today

About 20 years ago, 5-year-old Elián Gonazalez arrived three miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale from Cuba, on a makeshift raft, in search of his relatives in the states and a better life. Gonzalez’s survival through the arduous waters that would drown his mother and a dozen others along the way, might have been the media’s narrative in a different circumstance. 

The 5-year-old would soon become embroiled in an international custody battle. Did Gonzalez belong back in Cuba with his father or in Miami’s Little Havana with his uncle which many believed was his mother’s dying wish? 

The communist leader of Cuba at the time Fidel Castro wanted him back — and although the U.S. government initially placed the boy with his Cuban-exile relatives, they would eventually side with the dictator

Elián Gonzalez arrived in Florida in 1999 over Thanksgiving weekend.

Up until 2017, the United States had a “wet feet, dry feet,” policy with regards to Cuban migrants — all were welcome. The policy from 1966 allowed anyone who entered the United States territorial waters from Cuba, legally or illegally, to reside. It was revised in 1995 by the Clinton administration so that any Cubans retrieved in the territorial waters would be sent back, but if they made it onto dry land they would be allowed to stay. 

Gonzalez was found by South Florida fisherman in 1999 over Thanksgiving weekend. The 5-year-old was welcomed by the anti-communist community of Cuban exiles. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service placed Gonzalez with his paternal relatives who lived in Miami and wanted to raise him, however, his father in Cuba demanded his son be returned.

 Under the “wet feet, dry feet” policy, Gonzalez would have to petition for asylum because he was discovered before touching dry land. This small detail would cause a six-month, international legal battle and shift the way many Florida Cubans perceive American politics. 

Courts decide to send Gonzalez back to Cuba. 

While Cuban demonstrators and empathetic Americans supported the stay of Gonzalez — the governmental powers that be were building a case that suggested otherwise. A Florida family court granted custody to Gonzalez’s great uncle in Miami. However, INS had the superior authority to decide that his real legal guardian was his father in Cuba. Had the boy’s mother survived, things might have turned out differently. 

On March 21, District Court Judge Kevin Michael Moore of Southern Florida ruled that only a legal guardian can petition for asylum on behalf of a minor. But on April 19, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that Gonzalez could stay until his family could file an appeal. When government negotiations failed with the family, more extreme measures were taken to retrieve the boy.

On April 22, 2000, on orders from Attorney General Janet Reno, armed government officials raided Gonzalez’s home with guns and tear gas. A photo showing a crying 5-year-old Gonzalez with a large gun pointed to his face would later win the Pulitzer Prize. 

Gonzalez was safely repatriated back to Cuba.

The Gonzalez decision may have affected the outcome of the 2000 election.

Following the Clinton administration, the 2000 election was a turning point in American politics. Many Cubans felt alienated by the Gonzalez decision, and thus, walked away from the Democratic party altogether. 

“It was humiliating to Cuban-Americans, and the 2000 election was payback,” Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen told the Atlantic in 20001.

Republican George W. Bush won by 537 votes during a messy (and possibly corrupt) recount of the 6 million votes cast in Florida, beating out Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Known as “el voto castigo,” Gore received only 20 percent of the Cuban vote in Florida, compared to Bill Clinton’s 35 percent in 1996. Thus, 80 percent of Cuban American voters chose Bush over Gore — which should be a lesson to both parties trying to build Latinx coalition. 

Bush would go on to start the endless war in Iraq, utilize Islamophobic rhetoric in the wake of 9/11, trigger one of the worst recessions, and until recently, was considered the worst president in U.S. history. Gore would go on to warn us about climate change decades before the discourse entered the national conversation. 

What has become of Elián Gonzalez today? 

Gonzalez, in his 20s, is now a communist and staunch supporter of the Cuban Revolution. He was welcomed with a celebration upon his deportation. On his seventh birthday, Fidel Castro himself attended his birthday party. 

Whether Gonzalez is on the right side of history is beside the point because the 5-year-old boy could not have become who he is today without instigation by the United States. Communist-sympathizer or not — he was correct about one thing: 

“Just like her [his mother], many others have died attempting to go to the United States. But it’s the US government’s fault,” Gonzalez told CNN in 2013. “Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba.”

Another Member Of The US Military Has Been Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented People Across The Border

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Another Member Of The US Military Has Been Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented People Across The Border

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The U.S. military is going through a serious rough patch. Not only are they have issues recruiting new service members, but they’re also having problems retaining mental health workers, which is a really big deal because they help the people already inlisted. Now we’re seeing the ramifications of that.  Just this week a U.S. Navy sailor shot and killed two people at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor military installation. The Navy sailor went on to kill himself. It all happened in the same week as the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which the celebration is supposed to take place this Saturday. The issues the military is facing is not combatting depression and other mental health problems within their units, but some ethical ones that go completely against what the country stands for. 

On December 2, U.S. marine was charged for smuggling undocumented people across the border near San Diego, California.

Credit: Unsplash

“On December 2, 2019, at approximately 1:30 a.m., a junior-enlisted Marine with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel for allegedly bringing in undocumented immigrants at the San Ysidro port of entry,” the Marine Corps said in a statement, according to ABC News. “The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody. The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

The 20-year-old Marine has not been publically named, but the news station adds that they were not part of the “Trump administration’s southwest border support mission.”

Credit: Unsplash

Additional reports say the Marine was pulled over in a 2007 Ford Mustang for “additional screening.” That is when border officials found two Chinese women in his trunk. 

“The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody,” Marine spokesman Lt. Cameron Edinburgh said in a statement to Fox News. “The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

This latest charge comes on the heels of a slew of other military officials who have also arrested on similar smuggling charges.

Credit: Unsplash

Just this summer, 19 Marines were arrested for various offenses. ABC News reports that the Marines were allegedly involved “in activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses.” All of the Marines involved in this case were stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The number of marines involved in this case gradually increased from 16 to 19.

“1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and we will continue to fully cooperate with NCIS on this matter,” the statement said, according to the network. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”

According to Stripes.com, the Marines were all arrested in front of their peers during their morning formation and that was done purposely to make an example out of them. 

“It was a public display for the entire unit to see,” 1st Marine Division Spokesman 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh told the online news site. 

As for the reason to not disclose the names of the Marines arrested, Marine Maj. Kendra Motz said that is because “Out of respect for the privacy of the implicated Marines,” and added, “we will not release names or other identifying information until charges are announced.” Six out of those marines arrested have already pleaded guilty to human trafficking and drug charges. 

In related news, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that detainments at the border continue to decrease.

Credit: Unsplash

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan said last month that in October, the trend of a decline of detainments at the border continues to show a decline. 

“The numbers show this administration has and continues to take bold action to address this crisis,” Morgan said, according to The Texan news. 

In May, however, it was a whole different story.  Back then, border officials said they saw 144,000 detainments in one month alone. From then until October, there has been a 70 percent. 

It’s certainly an odd predicament that the government and the military are facing because on the one hand detainments at the border are going down, which speaks positively of their security tactics. Yet, on the other hand, their own military workforce looks to be in quite the dilemma going against their own principals. 

READ: CBP Arrests A 16-Year-Old After Catching Them Using A Remote Control Car To Smuggling Drugs Across The Border

Fort Worth Teacher Wins Appeal To Get Job Back After Tweeting Trump To ‘Remove’ Undocumented Students

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Fort Worth Teacher Wins Appeal To Get Job Back After Tweeting Trump To ‘Remove’ Undocumented Students

Fort Worth ISD

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen several instances in which school staff made racist comments either toward students or behaved in a discriminatory manner on the school campus. Typically, not much is done about it. In some cases, the school will conduct an investigation, a teacher may be perhaps suspended for a day or so, but for the most part, it is back to business as usual. The students affected by their racist words and behavior must continue to be taught by them or abide by their authority. It’s an unjust situation. But at least one school district did fight back against a racist teacher and will continue to do so. Here’s how it all went down. 

A teacher in Texas was fired after she made public statements on Twitter that she wanted to report undocumented students at her school.

Credit: @Rebecca1939 / Twitter

The incident in question happened in May in which Georgia Clark, a then English teacher in Fort Worth, Texas, tweeted directly at President Donald Trump that she not only wanted to report undocumented students but also requested assistance to combat the undocumented community in the area. 

“Mr. President, Fort Worth Independent School District, is loaded with illegal students from Mexico,” Clark tweeted back on May 17, 2018. “Anything you can do to remove the illegals from Fort Worth would be greatly appreciated.” Her account has since been deleted but the screenshots remain forever.”

Clark sent the tweets to the President, but she believed her tweets her private messages. Her comments were indeed public, and that’s how the entire school and community were made aware of her remarks.

Credit: @_SJPeace_ / Twitter

While the school board members voted unanimously to fire Clark this spring, she fought back and appealed her case. Now a Texas commissioner has ruled that the school district either gives her back her job or pays her a year’s worth of her salary. 

“The day the petitioner would have been reinstated is the day respondent tenders petitioner payment in full,” the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Mike Morath, wrote in the ruling, according to the New York Times

An independent examiner also reported that Clark’s series of tweets to the President was a form of “free speech.”

Credit: @natashaaa_ / Twitter

“Clark’s tweets are statements of a citizen on a matter of public concern protected by the United States Constitution and do not contravene or impair policies or proper performance of the district’s functions,” the report said, according to the Times

Despite the fact that the report’s finding’s that her tweets were considered “free speech,” what type of parent would want Clark teaching students who are undeniably discriminatory against Latino kids? 

“I’m very surprised and concerned that this cruel woman has been berating our precious children for years,” a woman earlier this year, according to the Washington Post

“Her comments were hurtful, irresponsible, misleading, and distrustful to the students she is supposed to protect and educate,” another woman said to the board in June.

The school district said they stand by their decision to fire Clark and will appeal to the commissioner’s ruling.

Credit: @briiianaaa14 / Twitter

“The Commissioner’s decision was not based on the merits of the case but rather a procedural technicality with which the District does not agree,” the school district said in a statement. “Mr. Morath said, in his ruling, that the board did not adopt a finding that good cause exists to terminate Ms. Clark’s contract. Yet, the Board of Trustees did, in fact, do just that in its decision on September 17. Accordingly, the Fort Worth ISD will appeal this decision and will do so in the next 20 days.” Furthermore, Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said: “We stand by our decision because we firmly believe this is in the best interests of all students.”

Clark said she wants her job back, and that she can still be a good teacher despite her political point of view.

In an interview with WFAA, Clark was asked how she would be able to do her job properly and teach Latino students. To that, she responded by saying, “If you need someone to help your child graduate, you’re looking at her right here.”

What do you think? Should Clark return to her job or should the school district pay her a year’s worth of her salary?

READ: This Texas Teacher Thought She Was Private Messaging Trump About ‘Illegal’ Students And It Got Her Fired And People Are Laughing Way Out Loud