Attorneys for Gonzalez Family Denounce INS Decision to Return Elian Gonzalez to His Father in CubaAired January 5, 2000 - 4:23 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAN HOPKINS, HOST, CNN "STREET SWEEP": We need to go to Lou Waters in Atlanta. We have some breaking news -- Lou.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Jan, we're going to Miami where Spencer Eig, an attorney for the family of the 6-year-old boy, Elian Gonzalez, is speaking and has just said that the young boy has been denied his constitutional rights by being prevented from having an attorney represent him to protect his rights and his rights as demanded by the family to stay in the United States despite the INS ruling today that the boy return to Cuba.
Let's listen to what Mr. Eig has to say.
SPENCER EIG, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: ... has made the point that Elian cannot apply for asylum from persecution by the Fidel Castro government because only his father, who is under the control of the Fidel Castro government, they say can file for him. That is clearly unfair and untrue.
Today, we met with immigration officials here in Miami. I was present with Marlaysis (ph) Gonzales and Lazaro Gonzales, Elian's uncle. They told us that based on their interviews with Juan Miguel Gonzales in Cuba, they have determined that he is not under duress and they have determined that only he can speak for Elian. And on that basis, I -- they have taken his -- on that basis, he has withdrawn Elian's request for political asylum even though he himself is under the control of the Castro government in Cuba.
This is an unfair and unconstitutional decision. Following the decision, we have immediately sent a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno and to the White House requesting that the attorney general review and reverse this decision; that the attorney general review the process under which it was determined; and that the attorney general and the White House assure Elian Gonzalez of due process of law.
It undermines public confidence for a decision to be made by a single official in Washington without holding any hearings, without hearing any witnesses, on the basis of a few secret interviews, mostly with Elian Gonzalez's father in Cuba.
We have copies of that letter to release to you after this press conference. I'd like to invite -- let me also mention, we are preparing, or have prepared and are ready to file various federal and state writs to protect Elian's constitutional and legal rights.
QUESTION: Excuse me. You talk of nine days. What is the nine- day deadline? What is that all about?
EIG: As part of this meeting today, INS officials told us that they hope that Elian and his father will be reunited within nine days. The officials themselves, as well as we, were not certain what that meant. We certainly will seek clarification of that.
The INS official stated that there would be no enforcement action.
I would now invite Roger Bernstein of our team to explain some other points about the case.
ROGER BERNSTEIN, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: Good afternoon. Today is a sad day for the U.S. Constitution. Today is also a sad day for the hopes and dreams of Elian's mother, Elizabeth. The action taken today in denying Elian the right to apply for asylum is unprecedented.
Thousands -- one moment while this plane passes.
Today's action in denying Elian the right to apply for asylum is unprecedented. Thousands of unaccompanied minors come to this country every year without their parents from countries fleeing persecution: Each and every one of them is entitled to a hearing when they -- when they express a credible fear of being returned to their homeland. This is particularly true in cases where aliens are fleeing from countries where human rights are systematically violated, such as Cuba.
Today's decision violates the spirit of international treaties which the United States is a party to. Today's decision violates INS's own regulations in affording asylum secrets to the right to a hearing. It violates their own internal guidelines that provide special protection for children to apply for asylum.
Many of you have asked, how can a child at age six apply for asylum? Well, the INS has guidelines that provide for that.
It says when a child cannot speak -- is not mature enough to speak as to why he is afraid, objective evidence can be presented at a hearing explaining why his fear is well-founded. That is what we are asking for: is a simple request that we hope that the attorney general will reconsider and afford Elian due process of law. That is all we seek.
And one moment...
QUESTION: Could you please clarify what are the state and federal (OFF-MIKE) try to protect his rights? You mentioned that. What does that exactly mean?
EIG: We'll invite Linda Osberg-Braun to address that question.
LINDA OSBERG-BRAUN, GONZALEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: We've finished preparing our pleadings to go to federal court. We're prepared to file a federal action immediately in order to take this action -- excuse me -- to take this action out of the executive -- away from the president, Janet Reno, the attorney general, and the commissioner, Doris Meissner -- and place it into the sound and thoughtful judicial process. We will be filing that once we get a response from the attorney general as to our letter, which we'll be passing out.
What we are doing is we are seeking a reasonable request, the same request we are seeking in front of INS and the attorney general, and that is for all of Elian's legal issues, his political asylum claim, and all the issues relating to his case to be heard and recognized. That will include the words of his father as part of the process. And we welcome that and we invite him to come and to join in this process where all of Elian's rights can be aired.
WATERS: A swift and strong response from the legal community on behalf of the family of Elian Gonzalez living in the Miami area to the decision made earlier today by the INS to return the boy within nine days to his father in Cuba.
The attorneys, you heard them say that decision is unfair and unconstitutional. They have sent a letter to the attorney general of the United States, Janet Reno, asking her to review and reverse that INS decision. A copy of the letter has also been sent to the White House. We'll have copies of that letter a little bit later on.
While that's all going on, federal and state writs are being prepared to be filed to take all this away from the INS and the executive branch and put it into the judicial to give Elian Gonzalez, whom they say -- a hearing which he is entitled to.
The decision by the INS, they say, is unprecedented. This story is far from over. It looked earlier today as though the boy would be peacefully returned to his father but that obviously is not going to happen.
More on the story throughout the evening. I'm Lou Waters at CNN Center.
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