"My parents were poor, and they never gave me to anyone," Mrs. Bail recalled. "I was not going to give my son to anyone either."--the New York Times, April 23, 2009.But the courts did take away her son and let him be adopted by a couple in Missouri while the Guatemalan woman, Encarnacion Bail Romero, sits in jail, according to Times reporter Ginger Thompson. Aong with many others, Mrs. Bail was arrested during a raid on a poultry plant near Carthage, Mo. two years ago. While many workers who had small children were quickly released, Mrs. Bail got caught up in the government's crackdown during the Bush administration on illegals. Because she was using fake identity papers, she would have to serve out a jail term before being deported. Her son, Carlos, was six months old at the time.
Two aunts, each with three children, also living here with no legal status, were unable to keep Carlos in their already crowded living situations. When local teacher's aide offered to find someone to take the boy, the women agreed.
The teacher's aide finally visited Mrs. Bail in jail and told her that a couple with land and a beautiful house wanted to adopt her son. They had become very fond of Carlos, she was told.
A few weeks later, adoption papers arrived at the jail, and with the help of a cellmate from Mexico, a guard and an English-speaking Guatemalan visitor, Mrs. Bail wrote a response to the court, according to the Times:
"I do not want my son to be adopted by anyone," she scrawled on a sheet of notebook paper on Oct. 28, 2007. "I would prefer that he be placed in foster care until I am not in jail any longer. I would like to have visitation with my son."She was appointed a lawyer but he was removed from the case after he pleaded guilty to domestic violence. Ten months passed. During that time, letters sent to Mrs. Bail by the prospective adoptive parents were returned unopened. Mrs. Bail cannot read Spanish, much less English. When she asked a new lawyer to find Carlos's whereabouts, he told her that he only handled criminal matters. "I went to court six times, and six times I asked for help to find my son," she said. "But no one helped me."
Last June she got a Spanish-speaking lawyer to represent her in the custody case, but by the time he reached her--she had been transferred to a prison in West Virginia--it was to late. The couple privately petitioned the court and last year Judge David D. Dally of Circuit Court in Jasper, Mo., terminated Mrs. Bail's rights and charges of abandonment and for making no effort to contact the baby or send financial support while she was incarcerated.
The situation varies from state to state, court to court, the story adds. An advisor to the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Dora Schriro, said that the agency was looking for ways to deal with family separations. Some effort, in some states, is being made to send the children like Carlos back to relatives in their home country.
In his decision granting the adoption he noted that the adopting parents couple made a comfortable living, had rearranged their work schedules and had support from their extended family. By contrast, he wrote, Mrs. Bail had little to offer:
"The only certainties in the biological mothers future is that she will remain incarcerated until next year, and that she will be deported thereafter....Her lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into the country illegally and committing crimes in this country, is not a lifestyle that can provide stability for a child."Yes, it is true that Carlos will grow up in a wealthier, more stable situation than if he waits for his mother to get out of jail, and they return to Guatemala. But she is his mother.
Reading this over coffee this morning, I could not help but think that we have not come really so far from the time when we women lost our children in the Sixties and Seventies, when there was so much pressure from the world to relinquish so the child would "have a better life." The culture may have switched who offers up the babies from white girls to poor women, but the concept is the same: Someone will provide babies for prospective adoptive parents.
I could not help but think that Mrs. Bail had become another handmaid for the wealthy who wish to adopt. I know nothing of the adoptive parents, but that they were inured to a mother's desperate plea from a jailhouse cell to keep her son. They would have their Carlos, despite the pleas of his real mother.
Will he, I wondered, ever know that his mother loved him and wanted to keep him? "My parents were poor, and they never gave me to anyone," Mrs. Bail recalled. "I was not going to give my son to anyone either."
But he was taken away because she was poor. --lorraine
The photograph of the mother, Mrs. Bail, at the Times site is beautiful.