Online NewsHour: Elian Gonzalez Court Fight -- May 11, 2000

MARGARET WARNER: For more, we turn to two experts on asylum law and policy. Wend Young is Washington liaison and staff attorney for the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, a nonprofit education and advocacy group. The commission filed an amicus brief with the court, arguing that the INS should grant the boy an asylum hearing. And Philip Schrag is a law professor at Georgetown University and director of the school's asylum law clinic. He is also the author of A Well-Founded Fear: The Congressional Battle to Save Political Asylum in America. Welcome to the two of you.

Can Eilan ask for asylum?
Professor, in a nutshell, what's the nub of this case?

PHILIP SCHRAG, Georgetown University: Well, the important threshold question to understand is that to win asylum, a person who arrives in the United States must show a well-founded fear if that individual would be persecuted if returned to the country from which they came. It's not enough to show that there are many human rights violations in the country. It's not enough to show that the country treats its own citizens shabbily.

Philip ScragThe person who gets asylum must show that there are good reasons to believe that that person individually-- in this case, Elian, individually -- would be persecuted. The question in this case then is, to what extent must the government evaluate Elian's claim that he would be so persecuted if he were to make such a claim? The boy is only 6 years old. He can't make the claim by himself. He can't understand at that age what persecution, human rights violations, and immigration law are all about, so he must speak through somebody.

Normally in the United States, we allow a father or mother, the surviving parent, if there is only one, to speak for a child. And so normally we have a very strong presumption that the parent here would ask the government to give the boy an asylum hearing, which means a thorough evaluation of his asylum claim. Because the parent here, Juan Miguel, said he didn't want an asylum hearing for the boy, but the boy's Uncle Lazaro said he did, the government looked at Lazaro's papers, his application and gave the boy some... gave the claim some consideration, but not a full asylum hearing, and determined that there wasn't enough there to make a judgment that there should be a full asylum hearing, which is a very long, drawn-out proceeding, and rightfully so.

Online NewsHour: Elian Gonzalez Court Fight -- May 11, 2000


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