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NCC General Secretary Welcomes Ruling In Elian's Case 

            March 21, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – “Delighted but not surprised” at a federal judge’s ruling that only the U.S. attorney general can grant asylum to Elian Gonzalez, National Council of Churches General Secretary Dr. Bob Edgar today said, “I only wish it had come sooner.” 

            “Elian should have been home before Christmas,” Dr. Edgar said.  “I urge the Immigration and Naturalization Service to move quickly in returning Elian to his father, grandparents and great-grandmother.” Dr. Edgar added that he has left a message for I.N.S. Commissioner Doris Meissner indicating that the National Council of Churches stands “ready to help, if needed.” 

            The NCC and Cuban Council of Churches have been working since December – at first quietly and then publicly – for six-year-old Elian’s return to his father and extended family in Cardenas, Cuba.  “If a parent is loving, caring and not abusive, a child should be with his or her parent, and Juan Miguel Gonzalez is a loving father,” Dr. Edgar said.

            The Council’s efforts on Elian’s behalf were particularly intense and time-consuming in January, when an NCC delegation visited Elian’s family in Cuba (Jan. 2-5) and then hosted Elian’s grandmothers during their mid-January U.S. visit.  “It was worth it,” Dr. Edgar said, putting the NCC’s efforts on Elian’s behalf in the context of the ecumenical body’s “commitment to and compassion for all children, whether they are in Mozambique, Bangladesh or held in a house in Miami.” 

            Among lessons from the project: “The federal government needs to move more quickly, and there are limits to what governments can do.  People-to-people efforts often bear more fruit,” Dr. Edgar said. 

            He said the NCC will continue to work in collaboration with the Cuban Council of Churches for normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. 

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