BY COURT TV STAFF
On Thursday, Court TV’s Vinnie Politan, host of “Closing Arguments with Vinnie Politan,” sat down for an exclusive interview with Jeffery Leving, the attorney for Elian Gonzalez’s father.
Elian skyrocketed to the international spotlight in 1999, after he became the center of an immigration and custody battle between the United States and Cuba. The then-five-year-old boy was found three miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, clinging to an inflatable raft on Thanksgiving Day. Elian had fled Cuba with his mother, Elizabeth Brotons, and her boyfriend. He was separated from the group of nearly a dozen during bad weather. He and two other people were the only survivors, according to The Washington Post.
The series of events that followed that notorious day brought all eyes on immigration policy. His relatives in Miami wanted the boy to live with them. His father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and stepmother in Cuba wanted the boy to return to them, as did then-leader Fidel Castro. For months Elian’s case was caught between federal and Florida courts. During that time, his family in Florida negotiated his asylum with the U.S. government until the ill-famed night of April 22, 2000, when armed federal agents raided the family’s home and took the then-six-year-old in the pre-dawn hours. The raid happened as his relatives were discussing the boy’s custody on a phone call with government officials.
Elian was ultimately reunited with his father and stepmother. Nearly two months later he was sent back to Cuba. The now-twenty-six-year-old holds a degree in industrial engineering from Cuba’s military academy. He is also a prominent supporter of the Cuban revolution.
Although nearly 20 years have passed since the controversy, Elian’s story still resonates.