LatinaLista — My old friend, Tim Chavez, who died from leukemia in May, and blogged about immigration issues in Tennessee at Political Salsa, used to tell me that he had a lot of work to do in his adopted city of Nashville.
Little did I realize what he meant.
Back in September, the nation was transfixed over the brazen abduction of the infant son of Nashville resident Maria Gurrola by a woman posing as an immigration agent. The woman stabbed Gurrola nine times and took her infant with her when she left.
It took three hours for Nashville police to post an Amber Alert. By that time, the imposter had made her way back to her home in Alabama to set up her delusional life as a new mother.
Hours after being stabbed nine times on September 29, 2009, Maria Gurrola holds a press conference outside her hospital to ask the Nashville public’s help in finding her baby.
Finally, after several days, the baby was recovered. Yet, just as Gurrola was reunited with her infant son, the baby and his other siblings were taken from Gurrola and her husband by the Department of Children’s Services (DCS).
No explanation to Gurrola was given as to why her children were being placed in foster care. News reports were saying that the kidnapper claimed she bought the baby from Gurrola’s husband but even the reporters said a lot of the facts didn’t add up to support the woman’s story.
Finally, the authorities added it all up too.
The insensitivity and abuse of justice Gurrola was subjected to is a pattern that the woman and her lawyer say show how Nashville authorities unjustly and routinely target Latinos — and she’s filed a lawsuit to get answers.
Among the questions Gurrola wants answers to are:
Though the kidnapper faces federal kidnapping charges, why have local authorities not filed any charges of attempted murder or aggravated assault?
What was the incriminating ‘compelling evidence’ in the possession of legal authorities that made it necessary to seize the children on an emergency basis without first seeking even an ex parte hearing before a juvenile court judge or magistrate?
If this incriminating evidence was so ‘compelling’, why did the FBI state at the time the decision to seize the children, ‘As of now, there’s no indication that there’s an ongoing threat to the family?’
What attempts were made to measure and weigh the seriousness and credibility of this incriminating ‘compelling evidence’?
If attempts were made to measure and weigh the seriousness and credibility of this incriminating ‘compelling evidence’ involving baby trafficking, how did DCS and MNPD officials assess and account for the viciousness of the near-fatal attack on the accused mother who was stabbed nine times and left for dead bleeding on her kitchen floor by the same person who claimed the existence of a baby-selling scheme?
It’s obvious that, though the infant was found, the degree as to how swiftly the Nashville police and DCS targeted Gurrola and her husband in the aftermath calls into question their treatment of the couple, the handling of the publicity surrounding the case and their ability to be objective in dealing with an undocumented couple.
As of now, both the Nashville police and the DCS refuse to release their records on the case.
It’s been said that given the limited exposure state officials have had with Spanish-speaking immigrants and the fact that they don’t have enough, if anyone, on staff to communicate with immigrants like Gurrola, a natural ignorance of the culture has permeated the treatment they give people like her.
Ignorant or not, there is no justification to traumatize a woman and her children who have already suffered such a trauma.
Hard questions need to be asked of the DCS – in addition to taking away the children without a court order or the assumption that Gurrola was an unfit parent.
And hard questions need to be asked of a police department of a city where a growing segment of their population is Spanish-speaking and they don’t have anyone to communicate with them?
Forget cultural sensitivity training for the DCS and local authorities. They need sensitivity training on how to see that a mother who is beat up, stabbed nine times and just had her baby stolen from her is someone who is already victimized and doesn’t need additional victimization by the very people she turned to for help — regardless of the language she speaks or citizenship status.