A federal judge today refused to block efforts to return six-year-old Elián González to Cuba, saying only the U.S. attorney general can grant political asylum to keep the boy in the United States. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore’s ruling dismissed the lawsuit filed by Elián’s great-uncle, Lázaro González, who wants to keep Elián, against the wishes of the boy’s father in Cuba. [includes rush transcript]
The U.S. government had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, which asked the court to compel the Immigration and Naturalization Service to give Elián an asylum hearing. Elián’s fate has been debated since he was found clinging to an inner tube off Florida on Nov. 25. His mother and 10 others drowned when their boat capsized during an attempt to reach the United States. The case has become a tug-of-war between the Cuban government and anti-Castro family members in the United States. In early January, the INS ordered that Elián be returned to his father, a decision backed by President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno. The order was put on hold pending the court fight. Attorneys for Lázaro González have argued that the INS violated the boy’s rights by refusing to grant him a political asylum hearing when he was rescued.