Miami The head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered the destruction of an e-mail that could have bolstered the request for asylum filed for Elian Gonzalez during the Cuban boy's stay in Miami, a conservative watchdog group said Wednesday.
A handwritten notation at the bottom of an INS memo dated Dec. 29, 1999, said that Doris Meissner, then the INS commissioner, ordered the memo destroyed the very next day.
A copy of the memo survived and was made public Wednesday by Washington-based Judicial Watch. It discussed the possibility that Elian's father at one time had sought a visa to move to the United States.
It also discussed allegations that the Cuban government had been coercing the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.
If coercion could be shown, the roughly drafted e-mail memo said, INS could "potentially accept the child's asylum's application and advise that there is no prohibition on age to child filing application. As such PA should proceed."
"PA" apparently refers to "political asylum."
The memo, written by INS attorney Rebeca Sanchez Roig, summarized a conference call on the Elian case involving several INS employees, including Meissner.
The handwritten notation on a printout of the e-mail memo, added by Roig some point after the memo was written, said Meissner ordered the destruction of all copies of the memo through another INS official.
It also said Meissner ordered that no more discussions related to Elian's case be put in writing.