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CNN Today

Elian Gonzalez Case: Court Hears Arguments Over Who Can Make Decisions for Boy

Aired May 11, 2000 - 2:08 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: The showdown over Elian Gonzalez took center stage at a federal appeals court here in Atlanta today.

CNN's Martin Savidge covered the hearing, one that may ultimately determine if the Cuban boy stays in the United States or goes back to Cuba -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it was a very big day in court over a very little boy, 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. Today's court hearing had been anticipated and had been expected for weeks. And even though there was no official ruling coming from the court today, many of those that participated felt that it was all very much worthwhile.

There was a relatively small crowd of protesters that showed up in front of the courthouse earlier this morning, many of them travelling from the Miami area. A small, but very vocal group, almost all of them in support of keeping Elian Gonzalez here in the United States. And they were cheering quite loudly when family members, the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, made their way into the courthouse; especially when they saw Marisleysis Gonzalez, the young woman who has grown quite attached to the small boy.

The proceedings went actually longer than expected. It was thought they might go 40 minutes, they actually went about an hour and a half. And when it was all over, one of the attorneys with the Immigration and Naturalization Service outlined the guide points that has steered his organization from the very beginning, pertaining to Elian Gonzalez.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CASTELLO, ASSOC. DEP. ATTORNEY GENERAL: First, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of Elian who has legal authority over him and who has a close and loving relationship with him, has made it very clear that he does not want to apply for asylum on behalf of his son.

Second, a 6-year-old child is too young to make these kinds of legal decisions on his own. An adult has to make them on his behalf and under the immigration law, that adult is Elian's father.

Third, there is no objective basis for an independent claim of asylum on behalf of Elian that would warrant overturning or disregarding the father's judgment about what is best for his son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: From the public's point of view there were no real new arguments that were raised in the court hearing today. But there was a new voice that was heard in the courtroom, that coming from attorney Gregory Craig. He is the lawyer that represents Juan Miguel Gonzalez and for the first time he got to express the father's point of view before the three-judge panel.

Here's what he said afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: Juan Miguel Gonzalez is a loving father who has a right to determine the destiny of his family and has the right to speak for his son who is a 6-year- old boy and too young to make decisions that are of such gravity as an application for asylum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: This particular appeals court is said to be one of the busiest in the country but it is not necessarily known as one of the fastest. Even so, the judges say they will try to expedite the case as quickly as possible, hoping to rule within weeks rather than months.

Reporting live, Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: All the while, Elian and his father remain secluded at the Wye River complex on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

That's where CNN's Kate Snow is to give us the latest on the family.

What's going on with him, Kate?

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, you noticed Miami relatives made the trip to Atlanta. Juan Miguel Gonzalez did not go to Atlanta, chose to stay here in Maryland. Cuban officials tell us that he is well represented by his lawyers and it simply wasn't necessary for him to make that trip down to the courtroom in Atlanta.

They are trying to stay here at Wye River and have as normal a life as possible. Yesterday, Elian and some of his classmates who have been visiting from Cuba, along with his cousin, went on a sort of field trip. They went out to a farm about 10 miles away from here, it's a farm that has exotic animals. They toured around the area for about an hour, they also spent some time playing on a jungle gym in the shape of a ship.

It was a glimpse of him that we haven't seen in quite some time. We have not seen Elian playing outside the confines of Carmichael Farm since he arrived here in Maryland. He is continuously surrounded, most of the time when he's on the property, by U.S. marshals and other security. Today they are back behind that security, back behind the gates here of Carmichael Farm.

We're told that Elian is receiving schooling to try to catch up on some of his class work, a good part of every day is spent with his teacher and his other classmates. We're told that he had fallen behind because of the five months that he spent in Miami and so he's being tutored for that. The stay for those classmates is now expected to last at least another two weeks, they've been given permission by the State Department to remain here in the U.S. for another two weeks.

A psychiatrist filed a report about Elian and sources close to that -- sources who have seen that report, say that it -- says that Elian is in good spirits, that he's doing very well, that he gets along well with those classmates. It also says -- the sources say that the report says that Elian had some fears that perhaps he would be jailed when he went back to Cuba. His father apparently told him: no, that's not the case, you'll be safe, you'll go back on an airplane. The father, we're told, very anxious to take his son back and waiting for that court decision.

Kate Snow, CNN, live in Maryland.

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