On Saturday morning, April 22, the world watched as armed agents of the United States government burst into a home in Miami and ripped Elian Gonzalez from the arms of the man who saved him from drowning on Thanksgiving Day.
Prior to this swift and violent act, no peaceful attempt was made to remove the child. In fact, Elian’s Miami relatives believed that they were still involved in negotiations to turn the child over under acceptable circumstances. Most disturbingly, it is now clear that the Department of Justice did not obtain a warrant prior to executing this paramilitary operation. Neither the child’s life nor his safety were in immediate danger. A federal appeals court has blocked his return to Cuba. Elian’s Miami relatives have consistently invited the boy’s father to come to their home and see him. Nonetheless, the Clinton Justice Department saw fit to needlessly endanger the lives of dozens of people as well as the health and safety of a small boy by seizing Elian Gonzalez in a commando raid.
Beyond all the legal questions and political maneuvering that have surrounded this case from the start, the most haunting legacy of the Elian Gonzalez story will be the image of assault rifles pointed at the heads of a small boy and an innocent man. The raid on the Gonzalez home in Miami is another chilling chapter in the story of the government’s violent assault on personal freedom.
The actions of federal marshals and Immigration and Naturalization Service agents in Miami are unacceptable in a free society. This sort of home invasion, though common fare in Soviet Russia and Communist China, is hardly the sort of action we should expect from the United States government. While I would be remiss to revive the post-Waco label of federal agents as jack-booted thugs, the term seems unusually appropriate.
The American people must reclaim their government from those who feel free to trample their rights. We must not allow the government of this nation to embrace the use of force against its own people on a whim. Yet, this is the direction in which we are heading. The threat of Big Brother dominating our lives is more real than ever.
If the INS is free to capriciously burst into a private home in Miami, it is free to burst into any home for any reason. We cannot permit our rights as free people under the Constitution to be trampled. This sad episode should result in an investigation into the use of force by federal agents and new safeguards to ensure that people are protected from the government. We should recognize the government for it what it is, a necessary evil.
-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.