Cirila Baltazar Cruz and The Plight Of The Unworthy

In recent weeks, the startling story of Cirila Baltazar Cruz has been stirring outrage and splitting spleens in certain corners of blogland, though it has yet to receive mainstream attention. Some details remain fuzzy, and we have yet to hear directly from the person at the center of the story, Ms. Cruz herself; and indeed we aren’t likely to hear from her anytime soon because her case is currently under a court gag order.

Here’s what we have so far: Cirila Baltazar Cruz gave birth to a baby girl, Rubi Juana, on November 16, 2008, at the Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It is, as you might imagine, a predominantly white area. The hospital provided Cruz with a Spanish interpreter. However, Cruz doesn’t speak Spanish; she speaks Chatino, an indigenous language from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Two days after the birth, the hospital reported the baby as a neglected child to the Department of Human Services, after which Rubi Juana Cruz was promptly taken from her mother and placed in the custody of an affluent couple in Ocean Springs.

According to court records obtained by The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, the child was deemed neglected in part because Cruz “has failed to learn the English language” which “placed her unborn child in danger and will place the baby in danger in the future”. In addition, the hospital report noted that Cruz “was an illegal immigrant” who was “exchanging living arrangements for sex”.

Of course, it’s a bit of a mystery how they were able to establish these facts when there were apparently no Chatino-speakers on hand. More to the point: it’s irrelevant. I’m no legal expert, but in my understanding, immigration status, language skills, and highly-questionable allegations of sex work are not grounds for snatching a baby from her mother and initiating adoption proceedings. But that’s exactly what’s happening. The case is currently in the Jackson County Youth Court, where Cruz is being represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As mentioned, the case is under gag order so it’s been difficult to get updates on the situation and the fate of Rubi Juana remains unknown.

Unfortunately, the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform’s Child Welfare Blog notes:

The case is not unique. In 2005, the Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat, revealed that, at least twice, a local judge ordered Mexican mothers to learn English — or lose their children forever. […] In one case the child still lived with the mother, in the other the child was in foster care. In both cases, the mothers spoke an indigenous language rather than Spanish.

Over at Vivir Latino, Maegan La Mamita Mala places the story in the larger context of the “good immigrant vs. bad immigrant” narrative which has come to dominate mainstream liberal discourse in the immigration debate:

Quick. Choose. The house is burning and you have to choose. Your mother or your child? Who do you save?

Your mother, Maegan writes, “didn’t make it like Sonia Sotomayor. Didn’t graduate from college and in fact can’t even speak English”. On the other hand, your child has assimilated, can speak English, has received a formal education, and “won’t be a burden on the system”.

Is it the correct choice to abandon your unassimilated mother?

This is the morally untenable dead-end into which liberals propel themselves when they adopt tactical discourse which appeases the xenophobic forces of the right-wing for the sake of electoral expediency, rather than a discourse fundamentally grounded in universal human rights.

Now I’m not suggesting any less respect for the remarkable achievements of someone like Sonia Sotomayor. But when liberals hold her up as the shining example of The American Story — a model minority, a false compliment with which Asian Americans are all too familiar — they are actually Othering the majority of immigrants, ordinary hard-working people who have never had the opportunities or life situations or sheer good fortune to rise to such societal heights. The implication is that those less-accomplished immigrant stories are somehow less American, and therefore those other immigrants are unworthy of the magnanimous acceptance extended by the mainstream to a select few.

What is the plight of the unworthy? Ask Cirila Baltazar Cruz.

Please consider writing, faxing, or calling the presiding judge in this case and asking that (1) Rubi Juana be re-united with her mother, and (2) all adoption proceedings against the will of the mother be stopped. Here’s the contact info:

Honorable Judge Sharon Sigalas
Youth Justice Court of Jackson County
4903 Telephone Rd.
Pascagoula, MS 39567
Call (228) 762-7370
Fax (228) 762-7385

ETA: Thanks to Maegan for sending me this radio interview, recorded on June 1, in which we hear from Cirila Baltazar Cruz herself (in Spanish and Chatino).

Cruz says she doesn’t know why they took her daughter, though she calls herself “ignorant” for not being able to speak Spanish or English (though she does speak some Spanish, as you can hear in the interview). She’s a homeowner in Oaxaca with two other children being cared for by her family there. She works at a Chinese restaurant in Biloxi and lives in an apartment owned by her employer — an arrangement which the hospital interpreter either misunderstood or misrepresented. Cirila says that the interpreter told her that she must leave her Chinese employer or lose her baby; furthermore, the interpreter offered her a job with a wealthy family who would take care of the child. When she refused the offer, the interpreter became irritated with her, and we know the rest.

Cruz says she wants her daughter back. All the information she receives from the court is in English. It was her cousin Esteban who implored the Mississippi Immigrants’ Rights Alliance (MIRA) to get involved, which is how we now know about this case. Vicky Cintra of MIRA (also interviewed) says red flags went up at the organization when they learned that Esteban had been barred from serving as an interpreter for Cirila at the hospital, even though he repeatedly offered; he was told he would be arrested if he didn’t leave. MIRA claims that the family that took custody of Rubi Juana are lawyers with connections to the judge; they threw a baby shower to greet Rubi’s arrival.

November 18 is the next court date. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this story.

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46 comments for “Cirila Baltazar Cruz and The Plight Of The Unworthy

  1. Rosasharn
    July 8, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    There are only two possible reasons for taking a child away because the mother doesn’t speak English: prejudice towards non-English speakers or ignorance of how language aquisition works for children.

    My partner didn’t speak English until he began schooling. Even then he had an hour of instruction in his mother tongue per day for several years, until he moved to a different school system. Now he can barely understand his milk tongue and speaks English fluently. From everything I’ve read on the experiences of children who don’t speak English in the home, this is a typical experience.

  2. shah8
    July 8, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    You’d be surprised at how unethically some people will act in order to aquire a (especially white) child with no encumberances.

    I’d check that skin tone…Oaxacans are pretty light-skined as far as Mexicans go.

  3. shah8
    July 8, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Okay, I should have read that Vivir Latino link first. Sorry for the redundancy.

  4. July 8, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    @ shah8–

    Do we really want to be faulting the adoptive parents here? If anything, adoptive parents on the whole tend to just be people who really, really want a child, ANY child. CPS and foster care seems to be where most of the problems are.

    Adoption needs to be made easier, not harder. Taking children away from their parents in the first place is what needs to be examined more carefully.

  5. shah8
    July 8, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Kidnapping by judicial means is not exactly as uncommon as it should be, and the links provided makes it pretty clear to me that the adoptive parents probably did have something to do with this.

    You have to realize, there is a set of people who truly, truly, hate going through proper channels to adopt a child because they hate even the idea that the birth mother might come back and claim or influence their child. That this seems to happen to (50000 strong) Chatinos repeatedly twigs my alarm that this is a workaround tactic that has been adopted by unscrupulous people.

    Roe V Wade was a really good thing in terms of forcing more adoptions to be aboveboard.

  6. July 8, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Exceptionalism… it’s a foundational aspect of any oppression system.

    Maegan’s hypothetical just left me… unsettled, disturbed, unhappy. The sad thing is, I can see that hypothetical being proposed in *any other space* without the context you&Maegan gave — and of course in that case, it’s obvious what the answer is “supposed” to be. Because society has settled on the inherent human worth in each person involved, and the disparity in its assigned values is so obvious that most people would have no question, no shame in actually answering that question…

    Thanks to both of you for teasing these things out of this story, and laying them bare.

  7. July 8, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    in an interview with Cirila Baltazar Cruz and a representative from MIRA hinted at the fact that indeed in the foster parents wanna Be adoptive parents are connected. How else to explain how they threw a BaBy shower when the child arrived at their home, as if she came to stay. I have to go and listen to the audio again, pero the family may have a law Background as well. (apologies for the B’s, it’s missing on my laptop and I have to copy paste it)


  8. July 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    It’s also important to note that Cirila Baltazar Cruz doesn’t speak English or Spanish. She was given a Spanish interpreter Because it was assumed that’s what a Mexican would speak, not one of the countless Indigenous languages that are spoken there.

  9. July 8, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Please consider writing, faxing, or calling the presiding judge in this case and asking that (1) Rubi Juana be re-united with her mother, and (2) all adoption proceedings against the will of the mother be stopped.

    Consider it done. C’mon folks, an injury to one is an injury to all! Let’s pack that mailbox with letters and keep this from being swept under the rug.

  10. dehka
    July 8, 2009 at 10:52 pm


    I’m from Mississippi and it sadly enough doesn’t surprise me in the least that this kind of abomination happened.

    Thanks for letting her story be told, instead of it being buried like so many other injustices.

  11. Butch Fatale
    July 9, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Vivir Latino says that the baby was given to “an affluent attorney couple” so it sounds like both may be attorneys.

    I will absolutely write and pass this on.

  12. July 9, 2009 at 12:31 am

    “…rather than a discourse fundamentally grounded in universal human rights.”

    Yes! I do have a lot of respect for Sonia Sotomayor and disadvantaged kids who manage to graduate with honors. They’re inspiring people, but I’ve always been bothered by how their stories get coopted–“Look, they did it!”–to divert attention away from systemic oppressions that work against Cirila Baltazar Cruz and so many others. Even among Asian Americans, the model minority nonesense completely others and erases the struggles of many in the Hmong American and Cambodian American communities, for example.

  13. knowdoubt
    July 9, 2009 at 5:59 am

    The truth is children have become the “cash cow” of the corrut legal system that we are burdened with. They make a fortune off them in divorce and child custody cases, not to mention cases like this one. Judges have absolutely no expertise at all in child development, psychology, etc., all areas of expertise required in determining the “least detrimental” action involving children. It is all about money, and the children are hostages of this money making machine run wild.

  14. Sheelzebub
    July 9, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Consider it done.

    Jesus, this is disgusting and cruel.

  15. July 9, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I sent a letter by post. somehow i don’t have too much hope that the judge will do the just thing.

  16. AnonymousCoward
    July 9, 2009 at 10:51 am

    As terrible as this situation is, contacting the presiding judge is not the appropriate course of action. Your letters, calls, faxes, and other communications will go completely unheeded, as the judge is ethically obliged to ignore them.

    The Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct, available here, provides in part:

    A judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties concerning a pending or impending proceeding

    The commentary continues:

    The proscription against communications concerning a proceeding includes communications from lawyers, law teachers, and other persons who are not participants in the proceeding, except to the limited extent permitted. To the extent reasonably possible, all parties or their lawyers shall be included in communications with a judge.

    (emphasis added).

    With that in mind, I think donating to SPLC or writing letters to the editor of the Clarion-Ledger would be more productive. Citizens of Mississippi may want to consider writing their representatives in the state legislature to encourage them to explicitly condemn the actions of CPS and pass legislation to make this action clearly illegal.

  17. Kai
    July 9, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Thanks, everyone, for your responses! And for your actions too. Nice to see that readers here care about something like this.

    AnonymousCoward, thanks for the tactical suggestions, though obviously I’m not one who assumes that judges obey formal codes of conduct, so let’s just say that we’re working from different starting points. The idea is to let the court know that people are watching so that they might consider doing the right thing. Of course, donating to SPLC and writing letters to papers and state reps are good actions as well.

    My activist friends are in contact with the SPLC and The Clarion-Ledger about this case. Hopefully I’ll be able to offer more info soon.

  18. AnonymousCoward
    July 9, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I’d just hate to see this case get prolonged because the “foster” parents find out about the flurry of letters and raise the issue on appeal, claiming that the judge should have been recused or something. Also, courts are explicitly not supposed to care whether people are watching: “A judge shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.”

    If you want to put pressure on someone in this case to make them consider doing the right thing, you should be pressuring the parties (apparently the Department of Human Services), not the court. You’ll just annoy the clerk of court, frustrate yourself, and arm your opponent with grounds for appeal.

    Here’s the contact information for DHS, obtained from Shakesville.

    Children’s Justice Act Program
    MS Dept. of Human Services
    750 North State Street
    Jackson, MS 39202
    (601) 359-4499

  19. Monty
    July 9, 2009 at 11:56 am

    I will state this fact. Hospitals have access to interpreters 24/7 for nearly every language in existence… there are 1-800 lines they can call and have an interpreter speak to the mother. While not commenting on the situation, there are ways they could have effectively communicated with the mother.

  20. icanspintooo
    July 9, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Can we take GWB’s kids away from him? He proved over and over on national TV that he could barely speak English.

  21. Pega
    July 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    This is despicable. Letter from me to DHS is on its way, and I’ve reposted a link to this in my personal blog with a request for others to do the same. As the product of immigrants, whose native language is now almost non-existant, this one really puts my blood on the boil.

    And the fact that things like this can still happen in this country (even if it is in the deep south) is just disgusting.

  22. Jason
    July 9, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Um…you can easily establish the existence a sex-for-rent arrangement by talking to the other people involved in the arrangement, even if nobody has an interpreter. It’s not rocket science.

    And…if the removal was only in November 2008, and it was done by the state, there’s no way there’s any adoption proceedings to stop. Just no way. Zero percent chance.

    By this point there’s already been a trial as to the original allegations, which I assume the mother lost, and the case is in the reunification phase. Check out the Adoption and Safe Families Act for more.

    Sorry to rain on the outrage parade.

    • July 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm

      “That’s just The Way Things Are, folks. No point paying attention to it. Parade’s over, move along.”

      No, no, no, a thousand times: NO.

  23. Kai
    July 9, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    That ain’t rain, Jason, that’s just you pissing on yourself, hehe. Do it all day long if you like, nobody minds.

    Next court date is in November. I’ll update the post soon with the additional info I’ve received.

  24. Pega
    July 9, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Added, because irritation sometimes destroys my concentration:

    “exchanging living arrangements for sex”.

    Sounds like the typical, traditional marriage to me…

  25. Dianne
    July 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Quick. Choose. The house is burning and you have to choose. Your mother or your child? Who do you save?

    Your mother, Maegan writes, “didn’t make it like Sonia Sotomayor. Didn’t graduate from college and in fact can’t even speak English”. On the other hand, your child has assimilated, can speak English, has received a formal education, and “won’t be a burden on the system”.

    I pick up my child and drag my mother out (I assume she’s unconscious or something since otherwise why would I need to rescue her) and abandon the whiny racist who asked this stupid question.

  26. July 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I linked to this in a piece I did at the CA NOW blog: Post-racial, My Ass

  27. Unree
    July 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    It’s not as cut and dried as you suggest. Prohibited “ex parte communications” are about factual matters–for example, “I was a witness to the crime you just tried in your court, Judge, and it didn’t happen the way the defendant said, but the prosecutor refused to call me to testify”–not opinions of the kind that people here have written to the judge.
    Maybe the judge feels she should tune out the letters and maybe she doesn’t, but that doesn’t affect whether people should write to her to express their views.

  28. AnonymousCoward
    July 9, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    @Unree: I hope this isn’t derailing, but I feel it’s relevant to the original post which, after all, called for people to contact the judge in this case.

    Ex parte communications are not limited to factual matters. Ex parte communications are *not permitted* unless explicitly authorized, for things like administrative matters, emergencies (TROs, for instance), speaking with court personnel, or asking disinterested legal scholars with notice to both parties and the opportunity to respond. Notably excluded from that list is: “angry members of the general public.”

    A judge isn’t permitted to discuss (including listen to) their own family on how a case should be handled; what makes you think it would be appropriate for them to factor in the opinions of the general public? I’d refer to this as a “question of justice,” but it’s not even really a question – judges interpret and apply law, not the views of the general public, no matter how outraged that public may be.

    As I said before, contacting the parties, writing letters to the editor, or supporting SPLC are appropriate reactions. Attempting to sway the court proceedings via unethical direct contact with the judge won’t be effective, and might create grounds for appeal if the judge ultimately rules against the “foster” parents.

  29. Dianne
    July 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    the interpreter offered her a job with a wealthy family who would take care of the child.

    Sounds like someone wanted to buy a baby cheap. What do you bet me if she accepted the offer she would somehow have been tricked into signing parental rights away to the wealthy family? In fact, I bet the family in question consists of a couple of attorneys…I do hope they get their butts sent to jail for this. Along with the interpreter.

  30. shah8
    July 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Unree’s right.

  31. pkc
    July 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    This sounds like another version of “Handmaid’s Tale”

  32. bfp
    July 10, 2009 at 10:30 am

    kai, i hadn’t known about the “offer” to let her be a governess to her own child. thanks for pointing that out. it makes me sick to my stomach–mothers of color are SO good at helping white women reach their full potential as mothers. they even provide a child to practice on and everything!

    I also want to say, women caught up in the immigration system ALWAYS have responsibility of the children, if there are any. they are forced to do things like express milk from their breasts to prove they are breastfeeding (in front of gaurds who make mooing sounds at them), they are locked up in small cells with the children (check out hutto prison), they are silenced or kept from protesting while in jail with threats of separation from their children (which has happened–there are several cases of women being deported while the children are left in prison with no caretaker at all–and to add insult to injury, those children often are u.s. citizens who have committed NO crime at all)–there have been *several* cases of women being raped while in front of their children by prison guards in “exchange” for extra bedding or food–and it’s a small thing, but a devastating thing–mothers are often not believed when they say who the father of the child is (i.e. a husband or partner)–and children are thrown into foster care until “paternity” can be established. and none of this gets into the abysmal way *pregnant * women are treated.

    All of these things–including more, are regular experiences of mothers going through immigration. I think it’s important to point out so that we don’t only support women like Cirila–but so that we also ask the right questions and support the right answers (and organizations–because trust me, not all immigration orgs are as connected to the community as MIRA is) as the U.S. begins to confront “immigration”–as Barack Obama et al have promised to do in the next year.

  33. ZC
    July 10, 2009 at 11:19 am

    This is infuriating, and all the more so to learn that it is not a unique case.

    I completely agree that “…immigration status, language skills, and highly-questionable allegations of sex work are not grounds for snatching a baby from her mother and initiating adoption proceedings.”

    Stealing babies — however one may justify it — is just plain wrong. What’s worse is to consider all those who were complicit with this crime: the hospital, the adoptive thieves, their friends, the DHS.

    The “othering” that you write about, Kai, seems to be a big part of the issue here, and seems to involve a disgusting mix of classism, racism, and sexism.

  34. July 10, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I read about this over at BFP’s a few weeks ago and I felt like I had swallowed a gallon of battery acid.

    I called Vicky at MIRA and spoke with her about the case to see what else I could do – as a regular human being who nearly vomited after reading about Cruz’ injustice.

    Sadly, it’s a waiting game and it *sounds* like there is much more to this case than just a faulty interpreter and a prejudicial system. Supposedly, the ties between the couple who have this child and the judge are a bit too close for comfort for a judge to be an unbiased party in the case.

    Also, (I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know all the jargon) the court instructed that no details about the case can be leaked, no publicity or media can be informed about Cruz anymore, but the information is out there. Folks like us are reading and we are outraged.

    I think one of the best things we can do is keep the word about this case going, keep the indignation fresh, and our voices loud.

  35. jaquita harris
    July 10, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I will state this fact. Hospitals have access to interpreters 24/7 for nearly every language in existence… there are 1-800 lines they can call and have an interpreter speak to the mother. While not commenting on the situation, there are ways they could have effectively communicated with the mother.

    thats not true. There are over 7000 spoken dialects on the planet. No interpreter phone line has all of them. At best, they have maybe 100 different languages.

  36. Diane C
    July 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    This story goes in line with the rest of the extremely unethical adoption business in the good ole USA.
    “If I can’t buy a baby, I’ll steal it, but make it look like the mother was BAD.”
    Nothing new here.
    Adoption sucks and this case is born out of the frenzied need of the privledged class to have whatever they want at whatever price, including humans. (oh, I mean babies. It’s gotta be a baby)

  37. smush
    July 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    The Baby Scoop Era never ended, it just stopped happening to white women. It upsets people when I say this but I truly feel that, by and large, adoption can only exist on the backs of disadvantaged, disenfranchised women. Stories like this completely enrage me.

  38. Justicia
    July 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    You must understand, this happened in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Extremely Anti-Immigrant, anti-anything not White, good old boy, Southern Baptist or prim and proper. They simply took the baby because they could. Or at least thought they could. She has legal representation now. We hope soon she will get visitation rights back. Though in Mississippi everything seems to be difficult. Everything that is to do with justice anyway. This has been violation after violation. Title VI of Interpreters in Court, was violated, the hospital violated her rights, its simply horrible. If you all look up on the internet you will also see that it seems to be a trend in the US, taking kids away from immigrant mothers then adopting them out without the biological parents wanting to give the child up. I guess its easier and less expensive than traveling to Mexico or Guatemala. Besides, I understand that US want to be parents can no longer adopt in Guatemala as the adoption doors have been closed. They don’t want to adopt from Russia and those places because of the many sick children that have come from there. Well, you get the picture. Now, Africa has thousands of orphan children who have lost their parents because of HIV and hunger etc. Why doesn’t this nice rich affluent White Attorney couple from Ocean Springs, Mississippi who have Ms. Baltazar’s baby girl, go there to adopt one of those children who desperately need parents? Wrong color for them? I thought it was about the love of a child? Or is it? I thought this couple loves the Lord and so therefore love children! Or do they? This is sick! just sick… Its about money, who you know, position, power, etc…

  39. Justicia
    July 30, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Besides we must not forget, this is what happened just 60 years ago or so with the slaves as they used to give birth to the sons and daughters of the slave owners when they raped the women. They would steal their babies and be adopted out. Oh, yes, only if they came out looking lighter colored, remember?

    So…the cycle continues…history repeats itself.

  40. Justicia
    July 30, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Responding to Jason,
    There was never a trial on the sex for rent issue. She didn’t exchange sex for rent. She lived in the apartment that belonged to the employer with several other employees. No one ever spoke to any other people such as the owners of the apartment or the employers. As far as the interpreters, an interpreter in her native language was accessed within minutes on the internet. So accessibility was not an issue. There are many details to this case that have not been made public. I can guarantee the mother is not at fault. The system is all the way around and a cheap adoption agreement with the hospital interpreter is a possibility. The judge probably will not be convinced, but the public attention as she is an elected official might just tip the scales. She can’t afford negative publicity specially when others in the community think she’s a great judge? We’re talking reputation here at stake. Another election or another candidate disgraced?

  41. August 4, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Don’t hold your breath on the “judge election” thing.
    Teresa Carr Deni is still a sitting judge after an election where people tried to campaign against her. Sure, she only passed in the 50%s, whereas judges who didn’t have a campaign to unseat them passed in the 70%s, but the “Okay, sure!” votes are too high for only some outrage to unseat a judge.

    That said…I do plan to respect AnonymousCoward’s tactical suggestions.

  42. Álvaro Degives-Más
    August 16, 2009 at 5:20 am

    I’ve spent the better part of a day researching this story that isn’t but really should be front page material.

    A few points, from a professional point of view:

    – That “interpreter” was either totally asleep at the wheel or totally unqualified as a professional interpreter: just over the past few years, I myself have run several times into a situation where the “client” didn’t display a very good command of Spanish. In all cases, you’re supposed to find out whether that’s an educational thing (hardly the case, grammatical nitpicking aside, even though many jump to that conclusion) or… due to speaking another native language. In all cases, it turned out to be the latter; in all cases, as I’m professionally required, I declined the job while recommending where to look for an adequate substitute. That “interpreter” did neither. Epic fail ensued.
    – Any fool with a laptop and wifi (and I quote: “Singing River Hospital and Ocean Springs Hospital are now offering public wireles [sic] Internet access. The coverage is for the entire Hospital, which includes all patient rooms and common areas.”) can google for Oaxaca and Chatino.
    – Chatino isn’t “a language” but really a language group with roughly six variants, the largest of which has about 12,000 speakers; add up all speakers of Chatino and you arrive at about 38,000 people who speak Chatino. Now, from what I have been able to figure out, Ms. Cirila Baltazar-Cruz probably is “lucky” in the sense that she speaks Western Highland Chatino, that largest population of 12,000 speakers.
    – As that radio interview demonstrated, it’s not at all that hard to find a qualified Chatino interpreter. Indeed, the interpreter who assisted the interviewer happened to be from the same area as Ms. Baltazar-Cruz herself!
    – That “interpreter” was (and probably still is) professionally speaking a good willing hack – at best: a health care interpreter is not and cannot be a patient advocate at the same time, yet apparently that was her role. The predictable conflict of interests has created in this case a whopping mess because of it.
    – Precisely because the “interpreter” did not inquire about the actual native language of the client, plausibly because the client is from Mexico and hey, they all speak Spanish there (grumble!) she refused the help of an available and volunteering relative (the cousin who on two occasions was ordered to go away and threatened with the police, no less) and thus had nothing else to base her “conclusions” on but her fatally flawed grasp of what the client actually said. It doesn’t get shakier and narrower than that.
    – The fact that the “interpreter” called in a social worker – presumably to consult over a perceived case of neglect and/or abuse – can be understood; the fact that nothing but the twisted perception by the “interpreter” of her “interview” with Ms Baltazar-Cruz was used in the ensuing investigation is unforgivable. There’s a very simple reason that in the criminal justice system a certified court interpreter working for the (de facto) prosecution / law enforcement side cannot also work in court on the same case, i.e. for the defendant (or the defendant’s counsel) and that is because of a patent conflict of interest. Here, the “interpreter” has acted as the detective, the prosecutor and the jury. Unconscionable.

    I’m not going into all the other pertinent aspects, but by golly, were that health care “interpreter” to have an overseeing entity to answer to… Sadly, Mississippi doesn’t have a mandated accreditation of health care interpreters; any idiot claiming to be “bilingual” can present him/herself as an “interpreter” with no enforceable code of ethics whatsoever and work in a health care facility, intervening in life and death situations. Again, had that hospital hired an accredited interpreter, someone who at least was familiar with the code of conduct applicable to health care interpreters, this case wouldn’t even have materialized.

    Because Ms. Baltazar-Cruz would have been understood, and she’d be home taking care of (and breastfeeding, doggonit!) her beautiful daughter.

    Instead of missing the first year of her child while facing the prospect of permanently losing custody altogether.

    I firmly and squarely place the larger share of blame on the shoulders of that “interpreter.” And through her, the Singing River Hospital who “saved money” by hiring a combo interpreter / patient advocate who, in the end, is no good for either, and actually opens the hospital wide open for liability.

    SPLC, go get ’em!

  43. Álvaro Degives-Más
    August 16, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Oh, here’s another nugget – taken from the Jackson County Youth Court’s own webpage:

    “Neglected child” means a child […] whose parent, guardian or custodian or any person responsible for his care or support, neglects or refuses, when so able to do, to provide for him proper and necessary care or support, or education as required by law, or medical, surgical, or other care necessary for his well-being; provided, however, a parent who withholds medical treatment from any child who in good faith is under treatment by spiritual means alone through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall not, for that reason alone, be considered to be neglectful under any provision of this chapter

    So, it’s AOK for parents to hire the services of a “recognized” snake handler to “treat” a child (even when, unfortunately, such ardent divine intercession leads to the minor’s predictable demise) but woe be the parent who seeks medical treatment at a “recognized” hospital that gladly hires a culturally and professionally incompetent interpreter…

    Say, one who apparently doesn’t realize that even the AMA is a staunch supporter of breastfeeding, aside from the broadly established practice in the indigenous community to breastfeed infants, and fails to note either; even when the patient is “accused” of not buying formula.

    Oh, and by the way: I’d just love to see the SPLC use precisely the religious angle to counter-attack. Not to mention the blatant idiocy of using single motherhood indirectly as a disqualification for parenthood!

    This is just so wrong on so many levels…

  44. Mama Trish
    August 19, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    In a nutshell, this was a bigotry-motivated KIDNAPPING, with the hospital, its incompetent alleged interpreter, Dept. of Social Services and Judicial System of Mississippi conspiring to snatch a newborn from its immigrant mother in order to supply a child to a white couple. As a mother – and adoptive mother – I am enraged. If the couple truly loved this child, they would not be party to its kidnapping. If there were legitimate concerns about the welfare of this infant – and the hospital, interpreter, Department of Social Services and Judicial System of Mississippi weren’t conspiring to act as a black market child kidnapping ring – every attempt would have been made to establish communication with the child’s mother and preserve the relationship between them. Clearly, this cabal of criminals had no intention of morally and legally serving the best interests of this infant. They saw an opportunity to snatch a child, assumed the rest of society would be as despicable as they and not care about an undocumented immigrant. Every one of these vile excuses for human beings should be behind bars. Cirila Baltazar Cruz and her daughter will have been deprived of an entire year that can never be regained. After the SPLC has reunited Baltazar Cruz and her daughter, I sincerely hope that she sues each and every one of these kidnappers for every nickel they have. How I wish I believed in hell, so I could damn them to burn in it for all eternity.

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