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Lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez Announces Client's Intention to Come to America

Aired March 30, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Janet Reno did something today she rarely does in public. The attorney general grew emotional talking about Elian Gonzalez and his impact on the city she calls home. With Miami Dade's leaders suggesting violence could erupt if federal agents try to seize Elian, Gonzalez family attorneys are talking with the INS again today about what will happen if the family's federal court appeal fails. If there's no agreement, the INS says it will revoke Elian's permission to be in the U.S.

CNN's Mark Potter is in Miami, watching for movement in a case that grows more complex daily -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're watching for movement, but we're not seeing very much of it. The attorneys for Elian and his relatives came here to the U.S. attorney's office four and a half hours ago. They had been upstairs in meetings with U.S. officials, officials from the Justice Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, but we have gotten no word about how it is going.

The only thing we have been told is that the meeting is progressing slowly, and there is no end in sight. This could take quite some time. It's even possible it could into tomorrow.

Now there are two major issues at stake here. The first is that the U.S. government wants to retain the right to transfer 6-year-old Elian from the custody of his Miami relatives to his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, if the father comes to the United States.

The second issue is that it also wants assurances from the family that if the family loses its appeals in federal court, it will turn over the boy to federal authorities so he can be returned to Cuba. They do not want this case going on to state court.

Attorney General Janet Reno said today that the U.S. government has bent over backwards to be fair to this family, but it does not want this case dragging on endlessly.


JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The relatives had their day in court, and we gave them an opportunity to file. A federal district court judge in Miami heard their case and affirmed our decision. Even then, we did not move hastily.


POTTER: The attorney general also appealed for calm in this community. The Elian Gonzalez case has created an emotional scenario here. Emotions are raising very high -- and, Lou, back to you, where there is a development here.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Mark, the attorney for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, now is at the podium in Washington.

Let's hear what he has to say.

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S FATHER: ... and exhaustively with Lazaro Gonzalez and his representatives in an attempt to arrange a prompt, orderly and fair transfer of Elian's custody to his father. We are grateful for these efforts, but we fear that the negotiations have failed.

Three times the government has extended its deadline for compliance with the federal court's judgment. Each time, without success.

The relatives in Miami do not speak for Elian. The lawyers in Miami do not speak for Elian. The only person that has the legal and moral authority to speak for Elian Gonzalez is his father.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez is ready at a moment's notice to come to the United States with other members of his family to be reunited with his son. He has been ready, willing and waiting for too many weeks, too many months. He needs only to be told that when he comes here he will, in fact, be given custody of his son.

We have informed the appropriate authorities of the United States government that Mr. Gonzalez willing to bring his family to the United States and to remain here during whatever time it takes to complete the appeals process. For that to happen, however, he must have assurances that he will have custody of Elian during that time.

The time has come for the INS to make those assurances. We urge the INS to give those assurances today, and we also urge the INS to make arrangements with the State Department to permit Juan Miguel and his family to enter the United States at the earliest possible moment.

To begin that process, I am today submitting formal applications for visa to travel to the United States on behalf of Juan Miguel Gonzalez and the other members of his family, including his wife, a four-month-old son and a favorite cousin of Elian's. I am submitting these applications to the coordinator of Cuban affairs in the Department of State.

When we have received assurances that Juan Miguel will be able to take custody of his son, but under circumstances that require him to remain in this country for a period of time, we will also be seeking permission for a support group of Elian's classmates, teachers and doctors to come to the United States to help smooth the transition. Juan Miguel Gonzalez loves his son. There is no one on the face of this planet that cares more for the well being and the welfare of Elian Gonzalez than does his father. The circumstances that now surround Elian Gonzalez' life in Miami, including the decision to allow camera crews into Elian's bedroom, the decision to permit a network news program to film a two-day interview with Elian without the father's permission, and the decision just last night to parade Elian in front of demonstrators on the streets of Miami, these decisions make clear that Elian's best interests lie with his father.

Can anyone really doubt that the time is long overdue for this boy to be reunited with his father?

Thank you very much.

WATERS: That is Greg Craig in Washington, emerging from his office. He's the man who is representing the father in Cuba, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of Elian Gonzalez. You heard him say the negotiations between the government and the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez have failed. He also said that the father awaits in Cuba some assurances from the United States government -- and he's urging that the INS give those assurances today -- that he be allowed to come to the United States and take custody of son.

So to that end, Mr. Craig is issuing a request today with INS for visas to be issued immediately for Elian Gonzalez's wife -- Elian Gonzalez's father, his wife and a favorite cousin, and later a support group consisting of teachers and classmates who would come to the United States and remain for an indefinite period of time until the appeals process is ended and Elian can, in fact, be turned over to his father and returned to Cuba.

He says the best interest of Elian Gonzalez rests with the father.

Pierre Thomas, our Justice Department correspondent joins us now from Washington.

What do you know, Pierre, about what Mr. Craig said about this afternoon's negotiations failing?

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, one of the things that we can point out is that clearly the Justice Department and INS is trying to incorporate the father's wishes into the negotiations ongoing in Miami with the great-uncle.

As Mark reported, they have asked the uncle to sign an agreement which would state that he would, in fact, turn over the boy to the father if the father comes to the United States. So that is being incorporated into the negotiations.

Now where the holdup is, is that I think the Justice Department, from my sources, wants to get a sense of whether, in fact, the great- uncle will sign that agreement before they can officially communicate with Mr. Craig that, in fact, the father will get custody of the boy if he comes to the United States. WATERS: Well apparently, the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez do not want him leaving this country, do not want him to return to Cuba, so they, in fact, will not sign any document that says, we will turn over the boy.

THOMAS: Well, I think that's what we have to wait and see later today, what comes out of these negotiations today. Sources were telling us earlier today that it's only a 50-50 chance that the agreement will, in fact, be signed.

So again, the drama unfolds. You now have a direct request from the father that, I will come to the United States if the Justice Department can guarantee that the boy will be transferred over to the father. Now that puts some additional pressure on the Justice Department. I think before they make final decisions, they will clearly will have to see what will the uncle's final decision be?

WATERS: And what about these documents Mr. Craig said he's going to submit to the Immigration and Naturalization Service today, requesting visas for the Cuban contingent of the Elian Gonzalez family? Is this news to you? Is that likely to happen?

THOMAS: Well, the request will be made to the State Department. U.S. officials will have to consider it. We have every indication those visas would be honored if requested.

So again, the drama now shifts to those deliberations down in Miami. What will the great-uncle do? And once they get that answer from the great-uncle -- if he, for example, says I will not sign the agreement -- the Justice Department has another decision to make. Will it be in a position to enforce what they feel is their right to remove the boy from the household and put him with his father.

WATERS: All right, we're at another level, apparently.

Pierre Thomas keeping watch in Washington, he's our Justice correspondent.

Again, Elian Gonzalez's father wants assurances from the United States government that his son will be turned over to him. He's willing to come to the United States immediately and stay for an indefinite period of time to gain those assurances. And we will keep you posted. As development warrant, we will report it along to you.



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