On Elián and Aliens: A Political Solution to the Plenary Power Problem

01 January 2001

The poignant story of a little boy fished out of the sea after losing his mother to the elements captured the country's imagination and ignited a political firestorm. The Elián González saga drew conflicting opinions from nearly every branch of American local, state, and federal governments. This article takes no specific position on Elián's situation. Rather, this artivle values the González story for putting a human face on often faceless legal issues. More specifically, Elián's saga raises the following important question: When should the right of the human being to be treated as an individual trump the right of government to decide how to effectively manage the influx of groups of people into this country through the immigration laws? Part I of this article describes the difficulty in trying to effect substantive constitutional changes in immigration policy through judicial action. Part II presents a political alternative to the judicial solution. Part II also suggests and rebuts criticisms of the political proposal. Finally, this article concludes by briefly returning to the Elián González case to put the issues raised in proper perspective.