The three-judge panel’s order bars anyone from removing the 6-year-old from the country, upholding a temporary order issued last week.
“It is not clear that the INS, in finding plaintiff’s father to be the only porper representative, considered all of the relevant factors — particularly the child’s separate and independent interests in seeking asylum,” the judges wrote.
The ruling did not bar the government from taking custody of the boy or forbid plans to reunite Elian with his father.
Elian’s Miami family has an appeal pending for the boy to be granted an asylum hearing. Oral arguments in that hearing are set to begin May 11.
Supporters of the relatives who have maintained a vigil outside the family’s Miami home, reacted to the court’s decision with cheers.
So far, the gathered crowds, numbering more than 300 today, have kept the government from retrieving the boy.
Elian has lived with his relatives in Miami since his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez was awarded temporary custody of the boy shortly after he washed ashore while clinging to an inner tube last Thanksgiving.
Attorney General Janet Reno said today that there may come a time when force may have to be used to reunite Elian with his father, but that she wants to avoid any violence.
There was no immediate reaction from the Justice Department or attorneys representing the boy’s Miami relatives.
Earlier today, the lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, Elian’s father, said the elder Gonzalez was becoming increasingly frustrated at being separated from his son.
“We are disappointed, frustrated and impatient. We are particularly concerned about Elian’s welfare and safety and believe that the government of the United States is not prohibited by anything the 11th Circuit [Court in Atlanta] has said or done on transferring custody of Elian immediately to his father and we have been urging them to do so,” he said.