Gonzalez Family Set for Explosive Reunion

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Elian Gonzalez may finally get to hug some of his nearest and dearest, although his road home may be getting longer. The boy’s grandmothers, Mariela Quintana and Raquel Rodriguez, were set to fly to Miami on Monday to meet Elian, whose Miami relatives are fighting hard against efforts to have him returned to Cuba. "I don't know why they want the child to stay here after the trauma he's been through," paternal grandmother Quintana told the New York Times over the weekend. "They are not close relatives." Now she’ll get to convey that message in person. The grannies spent Saturday and Sunday in the northeast addressing sympathetic audiences, but their reluctance to visit their grandson in Miami for fear of being caught in the political and legal machinations of the anti-Castro exile community had diluted the PR impact of their visit. Their change of plan to include a Miami stopover en route home may turn into the most politically charged family reunion ever.

Republican congressional leaders, however, don’t appear particularly interested in the views of Elian’s grannies. Florida's Senator Connie Mack plans to introduce a bill Monday granting citizenship to the six-year-old Cuban boy, in a bid to wrench the case from the hands of a Federal court and turn it into a custody battle in a Florida state court. And this being an election year, the U.S. may well grant — or impose, depending on your point of view — citizenship on the boy. "This is a little boy whose life is going to be affected by a decision," Senator Mack said Sunday. "I want the decision to be made on the basis of his best interest, not some INS immigration law." (That may be one statement impoverished Haitians or Chinese want to carry in their pockets next time they set sail for America.) Although the leadership in both GOP-controlled houses appears eager to back him up, President Clinton is unlikely to go against Attorney General Reno by signing an Elian citizenship bill. After all, the President no longer has anything to gain by going out of his way to court the Cuban-American vote.