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Florida Relatives of Elian Gonzalez Will Not Sign Proposal to Hand Elian Over if They Lose in Court

Aired March 28, 2000 - 1:01 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: There are developments today in the Elian Gonzalez case. The Justice Department appears to be closer than ever to a final confrontation with the Florida family of Elian Gonzalez. Immigration officials met with the family attorneys this morning.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is joining us now from Miami with the outcome of that meeting and what lies ahead -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Lou.

Here's what's on the table. At a closed-door meeting earlier this day, attorneys representing the Florida relatives of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez were given a written proposal by Justice Department officials and the INS. It seeks to make the uncle of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez promise to surrender the boy if they lose all appeals. The Justice Department has also ordered the family to submit this written statement before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

But attorneys for the boy's great uncle tell me they would never submit such a document because it implies, they claim, that they would lose. They also say -- a spokesman for the family that is -- that all of these relatives are emotionally drained.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARMANDO GUTIERREZ, GONZALEZ FAMILY SPOKESMAN: I don't -- can't tell you if he's going to sign it. I think that you just don't sign something everybody puts in front of you. You know, we see all those fraud cases out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Attorney Linda Osberg-Braun, who is part of the team, called the written proposal, the written statement from the Justice Department "coercive, irrational," and she said they are not likely to sign such a statement, but that they were having a meeting about that later this day. She said if they advise their client to sign such a statement they would be committing "malpractice."

Now we do -- are expecting a statement from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service later this day in about an hour or so they tell us. We are also told by attorneys for the Florida family here of Elian Gonzalez that there is to be another meeting tomorrow at INS, that the great uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, has been advised to attend, and that if the statement is not signed, they have been told that the INS will revoke the temporary parole status of Elian Gonzalez come Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. -- Lou.

WATERS: And if they revoke this temporary status, what does that mean, Susan?

CANDIOTTI: Well, the Justice Department is not disclosing what steps it plans to take after that. For example, would they at least temporarily remove the boy from this home and, if so, how do they intend to carry that out? Would these appeals be able to go on before the 11th Circuit Court?

The attorneys do tell me they do have one option if the temporary parole is revoked, they could ask the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay to try to prevent the INS from carrying out removal of the child from the home while the appeals go on. But if they don't get that injunction, they say that -- they admit that they are in trouble.

WATERS: How far -- and how far off is the appeal hearing?

CANDIOTTI: Well, the appeals -- they got all kinds of briefings and oral arguments, but the first briefings are to be filed in a couple of weeks, and oral arguments have been set before that court in early May.

WATERS: All right, Susan Candiotti keeping watch in Miami today.

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