The Immigration Service originally set today as the deadline for the Miami family members to agree to hand over the boy to federal authorities, should a federal court deny their appeal to keep him here.
They asked Elian’s great uncle to sign an agreement, but he refused.
The INS now says it will not revoke the boy’s temporary permission to remain in the United States until Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the emotional case has become an issue in the presidential race.
Vice President Al Gore broke ranks with the Clinton administration by urging Congress to pass a bill to make Elian Gonzalez and his father permanent U.S. residents.
Gore’s intervention seemed at least partly motivated by the fear that he and the rest of the Clinton administration would be blamed if the child were returned to Cuba.
The vice president’s Republican rival, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, called the announcement an “11th-hour position.”
“I’m glad the vice president has seen the wisdom of the way,” Bush said Thursday. “What he ought to do is convince the attorney general and the president to accept the same position. … We’ll see what kind of influence he has in this administration.”
Meanwhile, Miami braces for the decision. During a news conference with other mayors Wednesday, Alex Penelas said President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno would be held responsible if unrest occurs. He also said local law enforcement officers will not cooperate with federal authorities if Elian’s permission to stay in the United States is revoked.
Attorney General Reno appealed for calm. “We’re continuing conversation this morning in Miami, to try to work out a resolution that will ensure that an appeal is heard in a timely way, that nothing will be done to return Elian if that has happened, and if everyone agrees that we will abide in a prompt, orderly way with the rulings that come down in that appeal,” she said.
Elian’s father now has legal representation in the U.S. from Gregory Craig, the lawyer who helped defend the President Clinton during his impeachment trial.
“The relatives in Miami do not speak for Elian, the lawyers in Miami do not speak for Elian. The only person who has the legal and moral authority to speak for Elian is his father,” Craig said in a statement.
Juan Gonzalez is preparing to travel to the U.S. and stay for the duration of the court proceedings, as long as the U.S. guarantees his son will be returned to him or pledges to make a maximum effort to do so.