Other Elians

May 24, 2000

Over the last few months we have been talking about the plight of Elian Gonzalez, but it is also instructive to remember that there have been other Elians. A recent column by Michael Ledeen reminds us that America has a sorry history of returning refugees to evil dictatorships.

One of the most famous occurred in 1939 when nearly 1000 German Jews boarded the ocean liner St. Louis, desperately seeking to escape Nazi Germany. The Cuban government originally issued visas in Germany, but changed its mind. The ship entered territorial waters off the Florida coast, only to be driven off by the Coast Guard. The refugees returned to Germany, where most perished in the death camps.

After World War II, America again had the opportunity to save lives and turned its back on the nearly three million Soviet citizens Stalin would eventually torture and kill. Some were soldiers who had joined the Nazi armies. Others were innocent citizens who had become conscripted slaves of the Third Reich. Still others were the Cossacks, who were enemies of the Bolshevik regime. America did not intervene as they were executed or sent to the Gulag Archipelago, where Alexander Solshenitzsyn heard their stories.

Or consider a more recent example. Early in President Clinton's presidency, the Navy found a shipload of refugees from China in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The nearest port was Guam, where the Chinese could have requested asylum. Instead, the Navy towed the Chinese ship 1000 miles to the Marshall Islands, where they could not file such requests. Even though several of the women wrote letters asking not to be sent back to face forced abortion, no request was considered and they were returned to China.

Elian Gonzalez is not the first refugee the U.S. has sought to return to a totalitarian state. Unfortunately, I don't think he will be the last.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.