Mixed Reaction To Elian Court Ruling

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com)-His father is pleased but his Miami relatives are disappointed by Thursday's federal court ruling denying an asylum hearing for 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. The highly anticipated decision is a huge victory for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who wants to take his son back to Cuba, but it may not be the end of the fight for Elian's Miami relatives, who want the boy to stay in America with them.

The boy will remain with his father in Washington for at least two more weeks, the court ruling essentially giving Elian's Miami relatives that amount of time to appeal the case.

Gonzalez' attorney, Gregory Craig, said "yet another court has concluded that Elian Gonzalez belongs with his father and that Juan Miguel Gonzalez is the only person who has the right to speak for his son. This case has been decided and in our view, there is no longer any doubt about the ultimate outcome."

"This is a very important victory," Craig said, "not only for Juan Miguel Gonzalez and for the right of a parent to speak for his or her child but also for the rule of law in the United States. It is now time to end this chapter of Elian's life and to let his family go in peace."

Craig also issued an appeal to Elian's Miami relatives.

"Elian's relatives in Miami say they love Elian. They say they are concerned about his future but their love and their concern are best expressed today by calling a halt to this legal battle. The issue is no longer whether Juan Miguel Gonzalez will be allowed to make decisions for his 6-year-old son, the issue now is only when. We appeal now to Lazaro Gonzalez and to the members of his family to accept this result with grace and with dignity," Craig said.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez spoke through an interpreter at Craig's Washington news conference. "He is a simple boy who wanted to be with his father. All of the weeks that my son has been with me, with his family, with his friends, we've been very happy. I love him very much. I want to go back to my homeland. I want to go back to all of my family. I would like to say to everyone in the United States, thank you for all of your support," Gonzalez said.

But in Miami, Kendall Coffey, an attorney for Elian's Miami relatives demanded that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) demanded that those relatives be given access to the youngster while he remains in the United States.

"We demand that the INS and that the father's attorney (Gregory Craig) open the doors that have been shut to this child's US family, to his clergy and to his medical representatives," Coffey said at a Miami news conference following the ruling.

"The issue of who visits Elian is up to the father," a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service said.

Elian's cousin, 21-year-old Marisleysis Gonzalez, said she is not optimistic about the Miami relatives getting to see Elian.

Attorney General Janet Reno, who authorized the Easter weekend raid in which federal agents seized Elian from the Miami home of his relatives, said she hopes Thursday's ruling will help close out the case.

"This is a very important step in achieving the goal we have sought from the very beginning, to give Juan Miguel and his family the opportunity to return to a life together. I am hopeful that this matter will soon reach a final resolution, so that Elian and his father and the family may resume their lives away from the media and the uncertainty that the legal battle has caused for his entire family," Reno said.

President Clinton, traveling in Germany Thursday said he, too, was pleased with the court's decision. "I am pleased with the decision today of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. As I have said before, this is a case about the importance of family and the bond between a father and son," Clinton said.

Conservatives in Florida blasted the court decision. Senator Connie Mack (R-FL) said, "We, as a nation, should not forget Elian's mother and the countless others who have died in pursuit of freedom on America's shores. Our democracy should work to make the journey to freedom easier, not more complex. The denial of a court hearing either on custody or asylum leaves a black mark on our democracy.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said "My heart is heavy today at the thought of the grim future of Communist indoctrination that awaits little Elian if returned to Cuba. No child should ever have to endure that which Elian and all Cuban children are sentenced to - a life without freedom, without liberty, without hope."

"I believe the court's recognition of the political factors influencing the actions of the Executive Branch sheds light on the use of Elian as a pawn by the Clinton Administration to appease the Castro regime," Ros-Lehtinen said.