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Ruling in Elián González Case

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A federal appeals court sided with the government yesterday and denied an asylum hearing for 6-year-old Elián González, a hearing his distant Miami relatives were petitioning for without the consent Elián’s father Juan Miguel González. The ruling means Elián could return to Cuba with his father within weeks. The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Elián from leaving the country immediately and gave his Miami relatives two weeks to appeal, either to the full appeals court or the Supreme Court.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A federal appeals court sided with the government yesterday and denied an asylum hearing for 6-year-old Elián González, a hearing his distant Miami relatives were petitioning for without the consent of Elián’s father Juan González. The ruling means Elián could return to Cuba with his father within weeks. The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Elián from leaving the country immediately and gave his Miami relatives two weeks to appeal, either to the full appeals court of the Supreme Court.

We’re joined on the telephone by Cuban American immigration attorney Jose Pertierra in Washington.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

JOSE PERTIERRA: Thank you, Amy. Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Hi. The significance of this?

JOSE PERTIERRA: Well, the significance of it is that, for all intents and purposes, the Miami relatives’ legal hopes are dead and buried. I mean, this case is now all over except for the wait. The wait is that they have to wait at least three weeks, 21 days, for this decision to become final, because the Miami relatives have procedurally the right to seek judicial review of the entire court — that means all 12 judges of the 11th Circuit — or they can, alternatively, seek review to the Supreme Court.

But, you know, Amy, this case is a three-to-nothing unanimous decision by three very conservative judges who say in their decision that politically, maybe, they would have ruled differently, had they been attorney generals, but since they’re judges and they are deciding whether or not the attorney general acted reasonably, that even though they may disagree with her decision concerning a 6-year-old child applying for asylum without the consent of his father, that they think that’s an entirely reasonable decision, and it is, therefore, a legal decision. So, I think now the case is virtually over.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the 21-day delay, does that mean that there will be 21 days before a court will hold another hearing or 21 days in which there will be a decision by a court on a possible appeal?

JOSE PERTIERRA: No, Juan, it’s they have 14 days to file either a motion for review to the court of appeals itself, because, remember, this is a three-judge panel that has made this decision. They have 14 days to either perfect some sort of a motion for review to the entire court or 14 days to go to the Supreme Court and seek some sort of review there. Then, after that, there are seven days to wait until the decision becomes final, what is being called a mandate, from the 11th Circuit. There will likely be no hearings scheduled, like oral arguments or anything of the kind. I think this is all going to be done on paper. And what’s going to happen next is that the Miami relatives are going to have to ask for some sort of an extension of that 21-day injunction, or Juan Miguel can take his son back to Cuba. Then, you know, the Miami relatives can continue to seek review, but, of course, the boy would not be here, so the case would then be over.

The Supreme Court very rarely takes cases. You know, they take only a fraction of the cases that are filed before it. And they take cases if there are ambiguous issues of law or a split in the circuits. The law here is very, very clear. The law that says that 6-year-old children really cannot speak for themselves on legal issues is almost axiomatic. Judge Bailey, when she dismissed the petition before the Miami court a few weeks ago, said it was axiomatic. And since the legal standard for review here is whether the decision of the attorney general is reasonable, I think it’s a slam dunk. You know, what is axiomatic is ipso facto reasonable. So, I don’t think they have a prayer. And had this case involved a Bangladeshi boy, it would never have come to this. It’s only here because it’s Cuba, and it’s been made into a political show trial. Really, legally, it’s over.

AMY GOODMAN: Jose Pertierra, thank you for joining us.

JOSE PERTIERRA: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Immigration attorney from Washington, D.C.

In other top news today, after 131 executions during his tenure — more than any other governor in this country — Texas Governor George W. Bush agreed yesterday to the first temporary reprieve for a condemned inmate, postponing a planned lethal injection when Texas’s vigorous death penalty system is under close scrutiny because of Bush’s presidential campaign. The prisoner is Ricky McGinn. He avoided his scheduled execution because of the 30-day reprieve. It’s the first time Bush has used his authority to do this. When McGinn got the news, he had already eaten his last meal and was about to be taken to the death chamber. Bush says he granted the reprieve to allow more time for DNA testing, which McGinn insists will prove he did not rape and murder his 12-year-old stepdaughter.

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