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Appeals Court Takes up Elian Gonzalez Case

Aired May 11, 2000 - 1:19 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lawyers representing the Justice Department, Juan Miguel Gonzalez and Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives argued the merits of an asylum hearing for 6-year-old Elian. A three- judge panel is expected to take weeks to make its decision, but that decision could -- and we stress, could -- be the final word.

CNN Martin Savidge has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big day in court over a little boy. At issue: Is 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez too young to seek political asylum in the United States? Outside the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a relatively small but vocal group of demonstrators greeted the legal players, most in the crowd believing the boy should be allowed to stay in the United States against the wishes of his father.

They cheered as the legal team representing Elian's Miami relatives entered the courthouse. In the entourage, Marisleysis Gonzalez, Elian's young cousin, who grew close to the child.

But that same crowd booed the arrival of Gregory Craig, the attorney representing Elian's father, Juan Miguel.

Inside, a three-judge panel listened for close to an hour-and-a- half as to why Elian should or should not be granted an asylum hearing, something the Immigration and Naturalization Service has so far refused.

When it was over, those attorneys that spoke seemed satisfied they had been heard.

JAMES CASTELLO, ASSOC. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will now await the court's decision in this case, we very much hope that the special bond between Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his son Elian will be upheld.

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR ELIAN'S FATHER: To us, the issue is whether a remote relative, over the objections of a fit and loving father, can force the INS to accept and process an asylum application, which if granted could conceivably destroy Juan Miguel's parental rights and dismantle his family.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: This particular appeals court is known as one of the busiest in the nation. It is not necessarily known as one of the fastest. Even so, as the proceedings began this morning, one of the justices hearing the case pledged that they would try to expedite it as quickly as possible, promising that a ruling could come in weeks rather than months,

Reporting live, Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.

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