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CNN Today

Judge Moore Deliberates Elian Gonzalez Hearing

Aired March 9, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

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

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Elian Gonzalez went to school today, but his Miami family went to federal court trying to keep him in this country. The judge must decide whether to support the Clinton administration's decision to send Elian home to his dad in Cuba or grant the boy a political asylum hearing, an unusual step for a small child.

CNN's Mark Potter keeping watch at the Miami courthouse today.

Hi, Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Donna.

The hearing lasted about three hours and then was recessed without the judge making a ruling, and he did not say how long it would take him to make that decision.

Now, there are several issues that are facing the federal judge here, Michael Moore. The main question is, does the federal court have the right to take control of the Elian Gonzalez case. Another question: should the INS, the Immigration Service, be ordered to grant an asylum hearing for the boy, or should the boy's father in Cuba have the final say about the boy's fate, and of course we all know that he wants the boy to go back to Cuba. In its arguments before the court, the government lawyer -- the government lawyers said that the -- by law, the INS position should prevail, that the boy belongs with his father in Cuba.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICIA MAHER, DEP. ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL: At today's hearing, the government asked the court to reject the challenges to the decision of the INS commissioner that Elian Gonzalez should be returned to his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, at the earliest possible opportunity. That decision, which was ratified by the attorney general, gives effect to a longstanding policy of family unification and the internationally-accepted doctrine that parents have the right to speak for their children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: But the lawyers for Elian and his relatives in Miami say that the boy was illegally denied his right to a political asylum hearing, and they are asking the judge to order the INS to hold such a hearing. They argue that even by its own guidelines the INS must be required to allow any immigrant child to apply for political asylum. Their argument is that any immigrant child can apply for asylum and does not need the approval of a parent to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA LOTOA, ATTORNEY FOR LAZARO GONZALEZ: A minor can speak for themselves, and they can see that there are no age-based restrictions in applying for asylum.

QUESTION: Did Elian sign that application, and did he understand the application? How could he...

LOTOA: Yes, he signed it, and yes, he understands it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: The government's response is that even though a child does have a right to file an asylum claim, the question remains how much of a procedure does that child actually understand, and who ultimately represents the child. The government's position in this case is that it's the boy's father in Cuba.

Mark Potter, CNN, reporting live from Miami.

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