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CNN Today

Elian Gonzalez Relatives' Lawyers to File Papers Asking for Federal Political Asylum Hearing

Aired January 19, 2000 - 1:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Any time now, the American relatives Elian Gonzalez are expected to ask a federal judge in Miami to let the child remain in the United States. The latest skirmish is what's been an epic battle and aimed at blocking Elian's return to Communist Cuba.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Miami, closely following this story. She joins us now with the latest -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTII, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, Lou.

In roughly an hour from now, attorneys representing the Miami relatives of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez are expected to make an appearance here at the federal clerk's office. It's more or less a paper shuffle. They are asking a federal court to grant them a political asylum hearing after twice being turned down by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Now, while the youngster continues to face the challenge of attending a new school and learning English, his lawyers face the challenge of trying to convincing a judge that they have legal standing in this case. You'll recall that the U.S. immigration and the Justice Department has ruled that the father is the only one who can speak for his son in immigration matters. Now, Elian's lawyers, armed with a state ruling granting temporary custody to the boy's great uncle, disagree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPENCER EIG, MIAMI RELATIVES' LAWYER: ... has always been a state responsibility. Now the federal government and the attorney general are trying to all of a sudden take that away without ever holding a hearing, without ever interviewing the child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Now, lawyers who are legal experts in immigration law suggest that the boy's legal team and its supporters are on shaky ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID ABRAHAM, IMMIGRATION LAW EXPERT: It's very ironic, I find, that after many years denouncing communism for trampling on families, for splitting people apart, for paying no attention to the human side of life all in the name of scoring political points, that the people who claim to be Elian Gonzalez's friends and lawyers and counselors now are doing precisely that. They're prepare to rip a six-year-old boy who's lost his mother away from his father and away from his grandparents in order to continue a 40-year-old civil war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Now, part of the legal strategy is to buy time until Congress reconvenes, next week. That is when the Republican leadership will be sponsoring bills to try to grant this youngster U.S. citizenship. That would take the matter out of immigration's hands and set the stage for a bitter custody battle.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, reporting live in Miami.

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