Raid culminates in termination of rights

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Guatemalan woman who was caught up in a raid at George's, Inc., in Butterfield, in 2007 has lost custody of her child.

A Springfield judge terminated the parental rights of Encarnacion Bail Romero, last Wednesday, on the grounds of abandonment.

Romero was swept up in an immigration raid in 2007 and entered guilty pleas for immigration violations and aggravated identity theft.

While Romero spent two years in jail, relatives took care of her then-1-year-old son, Carlos. Eventually, the child was handed over to a couple in the church Romero's sister attended. According to published reports, they introduced the child to a couple looking to adopt, Seth and Melinda Moser, of Carthage.

The Mosers sent an English version of the adoption paperwork to Romero while she was in jail, but Romero, who does not speak English, did not have an attorney at the time.

The child went to live with the Mosers in 2007 and the couple adopted the child after a Jasper County judge terminated Romero's parental rights. The judge ruled that Romero had not attempted to maintain contact or provide for the child while she was in prison.

Romero's lawyer, Curtis Woods, of Kansas City, contended the adoption process was "flawed," and Romero had not been given legal representation before losing custody of her son.

Since her release from jail in 2009, Romero has been trying to regain custody of the son she never intentionally abandoned or gave up parental rights on.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in January of 2011 that state adoption law had not been followed and ordered a new trial to determine Romero's parental rights.

"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," wrote Judge Patricia Breckenridge in the high court's majority opinion.

The ruling Wednesday comes as a blow to Romero and her legal team.

"For a parent to abandon a child, there has to be intent to do so," said Emily Butera of the Women's Refugee Commission, New York, N.Y. "[Romero's] ability to parent was taken away from her because she was in detention."

This case may serve as a landmark for future children caught up in immigration cases.

Woods and his team plan to study the judge's decision before determining whether they will appeal.

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