The boy’s father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, urged the boy’s Miami relatives to give up their legal fight to keep him in the U.S.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed a March district court ruling that Elian’s father alone has the right to speak for his child.
The judges, however, denied a motion by Elian’s father to replace the boy’s great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzales, in the asylum case. Had the judges granted the motion, Juan Miguel Gonzalez would have been able to drop the asylum request and take the boy back to Cuba.
President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno each said they welcomed the ruling.
Clinton called it “a case about the importance of family and the bond between a father and son.”
The boy’s Miami relatives, who originally requested the asylum hearing, have 14 days to appeal the ruling. Elian must remain in the U.S. during that period. Family lawyers said the Miami relatives could ask for a rehearing, ask for a full hearing of the Atlanta court or take the case directly to the Supreme Court.
Juan Miguel Gonzalez asked his Miami relatives today to end their court battle to keep Elian in this country and allow father and son to “finally go back home together.”
“A child simply should be with his parents, always with his parents,” Gonzalez said hours after today’s court decision was released. “As the father, I should be speaking on behalf of my son.”
His lawyer, Gregory Craig, was more direct. “It is now time to end this chapter of Elian’s life and let this family go in peace.”
He noted that the Miami relatives who cared for Elian after he was rescued from the Atlantic say they love the boy and are concerned about his welfare. “Their love and their concern are best expressed today by calling a halt to this legal battle,” he said.
He urged them to accept the court ruling with “grace and with dignity.”
After the decision was announced, anti-Castro protesters in Miami screamed and cried outside the Little Havana home where Elian lived for months with his relatives.
Marisleysis Gonzalez, Elian’s cousin who cared for him during his Miami stay, said that she still believes God will not allow Elian to be returned to Cuba.
Kendall Coffey, a lawyer for the relatives, told reporters that during the appeal period the Miami relatives would seek access to the 6-year-old, who is staying with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez in Washington D.C.
Minutes after the 11th Circuit court’s ruling, lawyers for the boy’s Miami relatives sought help from Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The family withdrew that request a few hours later, when it became clear they had time to file an appeal.
Elian has been at the center of an international custody battle since he was found clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Florida on Thanksgiving Day. His mother and 10 others died on an attempted crossing from Cuba.