The Missouri Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case of a Guatemalan woman who says she never consented to the adoption of her son by a Missouri couple, while incarcerated for violating immigration law.
Encarnacion M. Bail Romero was arrested in May 2007 for immigration violations during a sweep at the poultry plant where she worked. In 2008, while the mother was still incarcerated, Carthage, Missouri parents Seth and Melinda Moser adopted her son, though Romero says she never agreed to the adoption. The Moser’s countered that they stepped in to take care of the infant when no provisions were made for him when the mother was put into immigration detention. Now having served her sentence, Romero is seeking custody.
Prior to the adoption hearing, an attorney (paid for by the Mosers) was hired to represent Romero in absentia. At the hearing, no evidence was presented on her behalf except a letter stating she wanted to be reunited with the boy and asking the child be sent to live with her family in Guatemala though apparently no resources were available for either scenario. Court files contained two additional letters from the mother saying she did not want her child adopted. Why these appeals were ignored by her attorney or the court is unknown and at the heart of this case.
Earlier this year, a state appellate court ruled that Missouri’s Jasper County Circuit Court lacked the authority to transfer custody of the child to the Moser’s, though currently, the Mosers still have custody of the now nearly 4-year-old boy they call Carlos Jamison. It is this ruling that the adoptive parents of Carlos want overturned by the State Supreme Court.
Since the adoption controversy has gone public, Romero has been given support from a number of groups that advocate for immigrant and woman’s rights. So far, groups filing briefs on the mother’s behalf include the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, Immigrant Child Advocacy Project, Legal Momentum, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Washington University School of Law, and the Women’s Refugee Commission.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case starting next Tuesday.