ACLU Calls on Attorney General to Justify Use of Force in Removing Elian Gonzalez

April 24, 2000 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union has long objected to the overuse of force by government authorities when a lesser degree of force would be sufficient. We are therefore troubled by the use of a heavily armed SWAT team with guns drawn to remove Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives on Saturday. If the Attorney General has reason to believe that such a degree of force was necessary, she should present that evidence to the American people without delay.

Without question, law enforcement officers have a right to protect themselves. But in the wake of tragic incidents in which the use of excessive police force has resulted in unnecessary injuries or deaths, the Justice Department must explain to the American people why the degree of force displayed in this situation was warranted.

Throughout the Elian Gonzalez dispute, the ACLU has consistently urged the court to respect the long-standing constitutional principle that parents have a presumptive right to the custody of their own children absent a showing that the parent is unfit or that the minor’s fundamental rights will be jeopardized if he or she is returned home. In those instances, we believe the child is entitled to the support of an independent advocate.

The ACLU also has argued that the federal courts must have jurisdiction to review Immigration and Naturalization Service decisions on asylum applications.

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