LatinaLista — One of the most appalling displays of how little regard our American justice system has for the human rights of undocumented immigrants took place yesterday in a Missouri courtroom. Greene County Judge David Jones terminated the parental rights of Guatemalan immigrant, Encarnacion Bail Romero, and cleared the way for the woman’s son to be adopted by a Missouri couple.
Romero’s pesadilla began when she was caught in an immigration raid at a poultry plant in 2007. She was sentenced to two years in prison for identity theft. During that time, she thought her infant son was being cared for by family members but the family had asked Seth and Melinda Moser for help in caring for the baby. However, the Mosers fell in love with Carlos and decided to pursue adoption.
They changed Carlos’ name to Jamison and in 2008, a year before Romero was to be released from prison, a judge terminated Romero’s parental rights based on the mother not maintaining contact or providing for the child while in prison.
How a woman in prison is supposed to maintain contact or provide for anyone is beyond ludicrous. A Missouri Supreme Court agreed and called her case a “travesty” and ordered a new trial — the trial that yesterday determined, for a second time, that Romero had no rights to her own child.
Romero was released in 2009 and has ever since been fighting to regain her son — with no success. Her lawyer says that Romero will appeal this latest ruling while the lawyer for the couple say that his clients are anxious to get on with their lives and proceed with the adoption.
What started out as a favor to Romero and her family has ended up as a plain case of child stealing.
What makes the case especially egregious is that the lower Missouri courts have concocted justification after justification for stealing Romero’s child as she has stood in their courtrooms telling them, in her broken English, she wants her son back.
The fact that the boy is 5-years-old and has formed a bond with his adoptive parents makes the case especially heart-wrenching. But it wasn’t Romero’s fault. Like any mother, she has fought for her child and the fact that the Missouri court system would judge her unfit simply because she was in jail, guilty for being in the country without the proper paperwork is reprehensible to the core.
Citizenship status has never been a barometer of whether someone is a good parent or not.
After yesterday’s verdict, with lawyers from each side talking to the press, the couple’s lawyer, Joseph Hensley, said something that makes even a casual observer to the case wonder how much outright or institutionalized discrimination played in this decision:
We’re extremely happy about the decision,” said Hensley, who also noted that the decision “really puts the biological mom in a difficult decision in terms of staying in this country.”
His comment is particularly disturbing given the fact that the original decision by another Missouri judge, who first terminated the parental rights of Romero, justified his decision saying “illegally smuggling herself into the country is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for the child.”
Yet, if any of these judges were educated about the reasons why migrants risk entering and staying in the country without the legal paperwork then they would know that it was precisely for the lifestyle here that they wanted for their own children.
This case is sad because it wasn’t that long ago that national media jumped on the case of Sean Goldman, the son of NJ man, David Goldman, who was fighting his ex-inlaws in Brazil for custody of his son after the death of his ex-wife.
The amount of media attention and political intervention that took place on behalf of David Goldman to force the Brazilian courts to make the family return the boy back to his father was not only justified but the right thing to do.
So how come Encarnacion Bail Romero doesn’t have those kinds of champions on her behalf?
Is it because she’s from Guatemala? Is it because she barely speaks English? Or is it because she’s an undocumented immigrant who has no legal rights in this country — not even when it comes to her own son.