The custody and immigration status of a young Cuban boy, Elián González (born December 7, 1993), was at the center of a heated 2000 controversy involving the governments of Cuba and the United States, González's father, Juan Miguel González Quintana, González's other relatives in Miami, Florida, and in Cuba, and Miami's Cuban American community.
González's mother had drowned in late 1999 while attempting to leave Cuba with her son and her boyfriend to the United States. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) initially placed González with paternal relatives in Miami, who sought to keep him in the United States against his father's demands that González be returned to Cuba. A federal district court's ruling that only González's father, and not his extended relatives, could petition for asylum on the boy's behalf was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, González returned to Cuba with his father in June 2000.
Hostility between Cuba and the United States has been persistent since soon after the Cuban Revolution. During that period, a considerable number of Cubans have tried to leave for the United States covertly, seeking better economic, social or political conditions. This emigration is illegal under both Cuban and U.S. law; any Cuban found at sea, attempting to reach U.S. shores, will be deported by the U.S. Coast Guard or if discovered by Cuban police, ostracized and prohibited from most Cuban institutions. U.S. policy has evolved into the current "wet feet, dry feet" rule: If a Cuban is picked up at sea or walking toward shore, he/she will be repatriated by force. If he/she can make it to shore ("dry feet"), he/she is permitted to make a case for political asylum.