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Special Event

Attorneys for Elian Gonzalez's Miami Family Hold News Conference on New Appeal for Asylum Hearing

Aired June 15, 2000 - 6:18 a.m. ET

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

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live to Miami now where a press conference has just started from the attorneys of Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives, discussing the appeal they are filing in federal court. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY FOR MIAMI FAMILY: That means that we're asking all 12 judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to examined two critical issues.

The first of these issues is the effect of a brand new United States Supreme Court decision in the Christensen case which really takes a very strong position against the kind of agency deference that was undertaken by the 11th Circuit in this case.

When the 11th Circuit reached its opinion two weeks ago, it based a tremendous amount of agency discretion on what you'd consider to be agency opinion letters and informal documents that the agency made. The Christensen case, decided just last month, says that you do not give Chevron-style deference to those sort of opinion letters. And that's critical because I think, as all of us recognize, the court itself indicated that it was not stamping its approval on the actions of the INS. What it was instead saying is that that was a action that was within the outside borders of reasonable choices, and that it was deferring to the agency action based on the Chevron Case.

With this new Supreme Court decision, we think it's important to give the entire 11th Circuit the opportunity to consider its very, very serious ramifications.

The second issue that we presented to the entire 12-judge court is the question of whether there is a constitutional right of an alien in this country to seek due process. And that's also critical and also has to be presented to the court en banc because the three-judge panel was not authorized to reconsider the older case by the 11th Circuit that found no due process right to seek asylum, based upon the fact that 16 years have passed, that Congress itself in 1996 eliminated the old distinctions between affordable and removable. And, indeed, based upon the direction of other courts in this country, we think there is a very compelling case for the entire 11th Circuit to reconsider its past views and to find that there is, indeed, a due process right of aliens to seek asylum. One of the cases that we cite in these papers is the 1999 decision by the conservative 4th Circuit, which did, indeed, find a due process right to seek asylum. There are other cases that we cited, including the 2nd Circuit in New York, the 5th Circuit based in New Orleans, the D.C. Circuit. Indeed, there is a wide range of contrary authority around the country that very clearly finds a due process right. In the 11th Circuit, there was no due process right for Elian to have a hearing, and that is a huge issue.

The other fact I want to mention this morning -- and then I'm going to ask each of my colleagues to add any comments that they might want to make before we open the floor for questions -- is that our effort is being joined by two lawyers with the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis. As some of you may know, it's a major firm, over 700 lawyers, and we're obviously grateful to have the additional assistance by some attorneys with tremendous amount of federal appellate experience.

And I think on behalf of all us who have work these many months -- and, collectively, you're looking at thousands and thousands of volunteer hours to date -- I think all of us are grateful to have the additional help, the additional support, and we think it's a strong signal about the strength of Elian's legal position, that the effort is attracting very, very formidable and serious legal help.

And so while things are obviously uphill, we lost the decision two weeks ago, I have to tell you that, as is reflected in these papers, there are significant, new developments that I think give cause for possible hope in the future legal proceedings on behalf of Elian.

I want to ask anyone else here among my colleagues to add...

STOUFFER: You've been listening to a live press conference out of Miami, Florida. Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives faced a deadline today to appeal to the federal court as they try to keep the child in the U.S. The relatives' attorney, Kendall Coffey, says they are indeed filing an appeal. They would like the full federal appeals court in Atlanta to hear their case. Of course, they want the Cuban child to have a chance to stay in the U.S.

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