Miami Judge Gets It Right, Rules for Embattled Cuban Father in 'Elian Gonzalez II' Case
Background: I've previously covered the "Elian Gonzalez II" case in Miami--a battle over a 4-year-old Cuban immigrant girl which pits her Cuban father, Rafael Izquierdo (pictured), against wealthy Cuban-American foster parents Joe Cubas, a well-known sports agent, and his wife, Maria. Just as Elian's father Juan Gonzalez faced numerous unfair hurdles to get his son back, Izquierdo has been manhandled by the child welfare system, in part because of the system's anti-father bias. In 2005, the girl's mother brought the girl to Miami from Cuba. The Florida Department of Children & Families removed the girl from her mother's custody in 2006, after an investigation found that the woman's mental illness rendered her an unfit parent. She was placed with a foster family, and Izquierdo came to the US to bring his daughter home. Izquierdo has spent months in the US and has been denied custody of his daughter--an outrageous violation of fathers" rights. Izquierdo should not have to fight to raise his own child. He is a fit father--how and where to raise his daughter is his decision. Judge Jeri B. Cohen faced down the angry Cuban-American community and did the right thing today in the Elian Gonzalez II case, ruling that Rafael Izquierdo is a fit parent who did not abandon his daughter, and should be permitted to take the girl back home to Cuba. Outrageously, the Florida Department of Children & Families has done everything it could do to malign Izquierdo and wrest custody away from him, spending over a quarter million dollars to do so. The Associated Press story is below. Judge Rules for Cuban Father By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ Associated Press, 9/27/07 MIAMI -- The father of a 5-year-old Cuban girl at the center of an international custody battle did not abandon or neglect her, so he should get her back, a judge ruled Thursday. Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen said she would not immediately return the girl to her father, Cuban farmer Rafael Izquierdo, who wants to take her back to Cuba. The girl went into foster care after her mother brought her to the U.S. in 2005 and then attempted suicide days before Christmas. She has been living with foster parents in Miami for the past 18 months and they want to keep the girl here. The Florida Department of Children & Families said Izquierdo abandoned the girl and officials want the girl to stay with her foster parents, Joe and Maria Cubas, a wealthy Cuban-American couple. The state's attorneys said removing the girl after such a long time would cause her serious emotional trauma. Cohen said she would hold a follow-up hearing to listen to the state's arguments, but urged the department to "take the blindfold off and see the forest for the trees." Izquierdo has denied that he abandoned his daughter and has professed his desire to return with her to Cuba. "The court cannot deny Izquierdo custody of his child," Cohen said. The father, foster parents and mother were all in court as the judge read her 47-page ruling over several hours. The judge said Izquierdo's efforts to regain his daughter once she was put in foster care "were not marginal for a man of his circumstances." "He has diligently participated in what must seem to him a mysterious and daunting legal process. While geographically, Cuba is only 90 miles from the United States shores, the two countries are philosophically and politically worlds apart," Cohen said.