Elian's Dad Wants Appeal Rejected

Tuesday, June 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) — The U.S. government and Elian Gonzalez's father urged a federal court Tuesday to reject an appeal by the boy's Miami relatives, end ``the excruciating delays'' and allow him to return to Cuba.

Attorneys for Juan Miguel Gonzalez asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to immediately dissolve an injunction keeping him and his son in the United States.

They accused Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez and his other Miami relatives of stalling, exhausting the appeals and taking as much time as possible to keep the boy in the United States.

``Now we urge the court to see through Lazaro's charade, stop the excruciating delays, and allow this family to go home,'' attorneys for Juan Miguel wrote.

In a four-page filing, attorneys for the father said a three-judge appeals panel's ruling earlier this month that only he could speak for 6-year-old Elian was ``indisputably a reasonable choice.''

The government agreed in a separate filing Tuesday, saying Lazaro Gonzalez was ``wide of the mark'' in asking the full appeals court to hear the Miami relatives' appeal.

The Miami relatives had made the request Thursday, and the court gave the father and the U.S. government until Tuesday to respond. Seven of the 12 judges would have to agree to hear the case for it to come before the full court. A court clerk said Tuesday there was no timetable for that decision.

If the full appeals court rejects the rehearing, the Miami relatives would have seven days to take their case to the Supreme Court.

In its ruling June 1, the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit said the INS acted within reason when it decided only Elian's father — not the Miami relatives — could apply for asylum on his behalf.

The panel said no federal law addresses whether a child as young as Elian can seek asylum against his parents' wishes. Citing a 1984 Supreme Court ruling, the panel said courts cannot interfere if a federal agency makes a reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous law.

The Miami relatives argued the panel gave too much deference to the INS. They also said aliens like Elian have a constitutional right to seek asylum.

The government argued Tuesday that the three-judge panel was correct in its ruling, saying the INS gave the Miami relatives a fair hearing and decided appropriately that Juan Miguel was acting in Elian's best interest.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez's lead attorney, Gregory Craig, argued in his filing that the Miami relatives' prolonged fight to keep the boy in the United States was a ``powerful reason'' for the appeals court to reject their appeal immediately.

``The driving force behind Lazaro Gonzalez's petition for rehearing is to prolong Elian Gonzalez's stay in this country as long as possible,'' the filing said. ``Every day, of course, is another day of interference with Juan Miguel's ability to raise his child as he sees fit.''

Juan Miguel Gonzalez arrived in the United States in April, hoping to take Elian back to Cuba and end the saga, which now has stretched to nearly seven months.

Elian was rescued off the Florida coast after his mother and 10 others drowned in November when their boat sank en route to the United States. The INS decided the boy should be returned to his father. But the Miami relatives, who cared for Elian since his rescue, refused to relinquish the boy, and federal agents seized him April 22 and reunited him with his father near Washington.