A Cuban exile will appear Tuesday before the U.S. Senate to seek confirmation as head of a Homeland Security immigration unit.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
Emilio T. Gonz�lez was 4 years old when he fled his Cuban homeland with his family in 1961. At age 9, he, his older sister and his parents became U.S. citizens.
The young immigrant went on to become a successful member of the Cuban-American community and a trusted advisor to high-level U.S. foreign policy decision-makers.
On Tuesday, Gonz�lez, 48, appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing after President Bush nominated him to head the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
CREATED AFTER 9/11
It’s one of three agencies that replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Citizenship and Immigration Services handles the so-called service side of immigration—naturalizing immigrants, awarding green cards, processing work permits and adjudicating asylum petitions.
If confirmed, Gonz�lez will follow in the footsteps of another Cuban immigrant—Eduardo Aguirre, USCIS’ first director, who stepped down to become U.S. ambassador to Spain.
Gonz�lez declined comment, but friends and associates provided an outline of his background.
The year he and his family fled Cuba was a fateful one for the island.
Fidel Castro proclaimed the ‘‘socialist character’’ of the Cuban revolution, and Cuban exiles, trained and financed by the Central Intelligence Agency, landed at the Bay of Pigs on the island’s southern coast. They were soundly defeated after the United States failed to provide air cover for them.
Gonzalez’s family left Cuba aboard a Spanish ship carrying Catholic priests and nuns expelled by the Castro regime. It went to Venezuela, where Gonzalez’s mother has relatives. The family later moved to Tampa.
Gonz�lez’s father chose Tampa because he had been in the cigar business in Cuba and the old city on Florida’s West Coast has historic connections to the Cuban tobacco industry.
Gonz�lez attended the University of South Florida, graduating in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations.
A short time later, he joined the U.S. Army and made a career out of the military. He stayed in the Army for 26 years, with postings around the world, and eventually made the rank of colonel. He taught at West Point and served as military attache at the U.S. embassies in Mexico and El Salvador.
WORKED IN MIAMI
In Miami, Gonz�lez served as special assistant to Gen. Peter Pace, then commander-in-chief of the U.S. Southern Command. Pace is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Gonz�lez, meanwhile, obtained a master’s degree in Latin American studies at Tulane University and a Ph.D in international affairs at the University of Miami.
Jaime Suchlicki, a professor of history and director of UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, directed Gonz�lez’s dissertation on the Salvadoran military.
‘‘It was an analysis of the military and their attitude,’’ Suchlicki recalled. ``He had good discipline. A very dedicated student, but he was also an affable guy with a great personality. Very intelligent guy.’‘
Gonz�lez also wrote a paper for a UM class titled The Cuban Connection: Drug Trafficking and the Castro Regime.
In 2002, Gonz�lez joined the Bush administration as director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council. He later went to work for a private law firm, Miami-based Tew Cardenas, LLP, commuting between his Miami home and the U.S. capital where he opened a government affairs office.
Gonz�lez’s wife, Gloria Aristigueta, is an elementary and preschool teacher. Their two daughters attend Florida International University.