Attorney General Janet Reno has only a few days left in office and they will be busy ones. There is a considerable pile of pleas and requests on her desk concerning a plethora of legal cases that, for a variety of reasons, simply can’t wait for her successor. One case that deserves immediate attention is that of the McAllister family of New Jersey.
The family’s history and circumstances are familiar to readers as they should also be, at this late stage, to Reno. The attorney general recently received a letter signed by 14 members of Congress that tries to convince her of the merits of the family’s bid to become a normal American one, free from the kind of direct threat they would face if they were returned to Belfast.
Not long ago, Reno saw fit to end deportation proceedings against six "deportees" and suspend plans to proceed against three others. She did so, according to her own statement, on the advice of the secretary of state and in accordance with the views of the National Security Council. Clearly, there is a strong political element to the issue of the deportees, the McAllisters included, and Reno felt more at ease with her action once political cover was provided by the Clinton administration.
Political cover is already provided in the McAllister case by the congressional letter, signed as it is by both Republicans and Democrats. "In the name of peace and humanity," the representatives plead in their final paragraph.
Yes, peace and humanity has a role in this too. But we are under no illusion as to the overwhelming political and legal aspect to the McAllister case. Still, fair justice and wise politics are as important, and possible, at the end of the day as they are at its dawn. Hopefully, Reno will find herself able to grant the McAllisters a normal life even as she turns out the light in her office for the last time.