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Supreme Court refuses to hear Gonzalez family appeal
In a brief, two-sentence statement, the court rejected a request by Elian's Miami relatives for a political asylum hearing on the boy's behalf and refused to extend the injunction requiring him to stay in the United States.
The ruling meant that Elian and his immediate family would be free to leave for Cuba after 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday when a previous injunction expires.
In light of the Supreme Court ruling, the 6-year-old, his father, stepmother, and half-brother were expected to board a charter jet at Dulles Airport for the flight to Havana. Cuban officials tell CNN that the family will then return to their home in Cardenas.
Attorneys for the Miami relatives filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court Monday after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected their request to reconsider its ruling that said the Immigration and Naturalization Service did not have to grant Elian a political asylum hearing.
The appeal said the legal issues "boil down to a single straightforward question: Can the INS deprive an alien child of his statutory and constitutional right to apply for asylum without conducting any hearing of any kind -- or even interviewing the child himself?"
The Justice Department argued that Elian's Miami relatives' last-ditch appeal was without merit and said, "prohibiting Elian's departure would only cause him harm."
Justice Department officials are relieved that the Supreme Court agreed with their position, CNN Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas reported. He said they would like for the family to leave in dignity.
Immigration officials have consistently maintained that the desire of Elian's father to repatriate the boy to Cuba must be respected, a position backed by a succession of court rulings.
Elian has been at the center of a legal tug of war between his father and his Miami relatives since he was found clinging to an inner tube on Thanksgiving Day. His mother and 10 other people died trying to reach the U.S. in a poorly-made boat.
Elian could be just hours away from return to Cuba
U.S. Attorney General
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