SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A five-year-old boy at the center of an international custody battle involving a Guatemalan mother and a Carthage couple could soon learn who will raise him. His mother says a Jasper County judge approved the adoption of the boy against her will. The case raises many questions about the rights of parents --especially parents who are in the country illegally. Even though the issues are broad, the outcome of the case will affect the future of one little boy.
Encarnacion Bail Romero has not seen her son Carlos for four-and-a-half years. “I start crying and get sad because he's not with me,” Romero told ABC News. In May of 2007, Immigration and Customs enforcement officers raided George's, a poultry processing plant. They arrested Romero and about 100 other undocumented workers. "This case is not about Guatemala. It's not about the biological mother,” said Richard Schnake, attorney for the boy’s adoptive parents. “The question is what's in the best interest of the child."
Melinda and Seth Moser of Carthage adopted Carlos Jamieson after a judge there ruled he would be better off with the Mosers than with his birth mother because she is an illegal immigrant. “Nobody could help me because I don't speak English,” Romero said.
Judge David Dally terminated her parental rights, saying "illegally smuggling herself into the country is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for the child." Dally told ABC News he stands by his decision. “Obviously, I thought the judgment was fair when I issued the judgment, yes,” Dally said.
A Missouri Supreme Court judge said the fact that Encarnacion was incarcerated, had scarce resources and was poor is not in itself a basis to find neglect or to terminate parental rights. In an opinion the judge said were it enough, a large number of American parents would forfeit their parental and custodial rights. “Immigration in itself is not a reason to terminate parental rights,” Romero’s attorney Omar Riojas said.
According to a website set up by friends and family of the Mosers, “Seth and Melinda simply wanted to reach out and help a child in need. Their desire was very simple. Give Carlos Jamison a home, nurse him back to health and give him a future.”
Law requires that before parental rights are terminated, there must be a report or investigation into the parent's background, history or ability to care for the child. A Missouri Supreme Court judge says no one conducted that study in this case.
“Every member of this Court agrees that this case is a travesty in its egregious procedural errors, its long duration, and its impact on mother, adoptive parents, and, most importantly, the child,” Judge Patricia Breckenridge wrote in the January 2011 opinion.
The new trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in Springfield.