Thursday, January 6, 2011
His biological mother calls him Carlitos, but he's Jamison to the couple that adopted him.
The two sides are locked in a heart-wrenching legal fight over custody of the 4-year-old boy. He's caught between federal immigration law and state adoption law -- and between two families. But the Missouri Supreme Court will soon decide his fate.
The court could keep him with his adoptive parents, Seth and Melinda Moser, a couple from Carthage, Missouri who have raised the boy since shortly before his second birthday. The Mosers say they played by the rules in adopting the boy and provide him with a loving, stable home.
Or the court could return the boy to his biological mother, a native of Guatemala who says she never agreed to her son's adoption. She was separated from her son when he was about six months old, after federal agents imprisoned her as an illegal immigrant who used a stolen Social Security number to work at a poultry processing plant.
Seth Moser says he and his wife are the only parents the boy has ever known. They heard him speak his first words, watched him take his first steps.
"It's almost like preparing for someone in your family to die," he says. "How do you explain to your 4-year-old that there's an issue and that he has to go with this other person he doesn't even know?"
The boy speaks English, like the Mosers. His biological mother, Encarnacion Bail Romero, speaks Spanish.
She didn't see her son during her nearly two years behind bars, but the boy is her flesh and blood, she argues. She says her child was taken away without her consent. How can a court not allow her to get her child back, she asks?
"I was very worried about my son, and today I'm still desperate," she says in Spanish. "I want to be with my son."
The federal government plans to deport Bail Romero to Guatemala, where her two other children live, but authorities have put that on hold until the courts resolve the question of her son's custody.
Lurking behind the immediate issue of where the boy will live is the larger question of what happens to children when their parents are detained as illegal immigrants.
There may be hundreds or thousands of cases in the United States where immigrant children are taken from their biological parents, says Marcia Zug, a University of South Carolina law professor who has researched the topic.
Because records of many such cases are sealed, and because many immigrants can't afford to hire lawyers, Zug estimates that she has found only a small fraction of such cases.
"I have 20 documented cases, but I think that's just the tip of the iceberg," she says.
The Missouri Supreme Court could rule any day on the legality of the boy's adoption; a lower court already has ruled that the adoption was invalid.
Read the full article here.