Whose “Anchor” Baby?

The SPLC continues its marathon efforts to give a voice to the silenced:

Mississippi officials conspired to take the infant of an illegal immigrant from Mexico so the girl could be adopted by a white couple, a civil rights group charged Thursday in a federal lawsuit. The Southern Poverty Law Center said Cirila Baltazar Cruz was separated from her daughter, Ruby, for a year before her child was returned to her in 2009 after the intervention of the group.
Cruz had the baby at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula in November 2008. Two days after the child was born she was taken from her mother when the Mississippi Department of Human Services deemed Cruz unfit, according to the lawsuit. Cruz – who spoke no English and little Spanish and could not read or write – was interviewed by a hospital interpreter. The interpreter spoke Spanish, not Chatino, a dialect indigenous to Cruz’s native Oaxaca in rural Mexico, the group’s lawsuit alleges.
After talking with Cruz, the interpreter told one of the immigrant’s relatives that Cruz was trading sex for housing and wanted to give the child up for adoption, according to the lawsuit. Cruz said in the court filing that she tried to explain to the interpreter she worked in a Chinese restaurant and lived in an apartment.
The child was placed in the home of Wendy and Douglas Tynes, two attorneys who lived in Ocean Springs and were foster parents. The complaint said the Tynes were seeking to adopt. The suit alleges MDHS officials conspired with a youth court judge and the Tynes to keep Cruz from her daughter so she could be adopted by the couple. Messages left at the Tynes’ offices weren’t immediately returned.

Even before the lawsuit, the case had drawn national and international attention, prompting a federal review and an agreement that requires Mississippi to notify the Mexican consulate when similar situations occur.
Joseph J. Bock, acting associate commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, cited a lack of reasonable efforts to prevent the child’s removal and that the agency used Spanish interpreters when it was known Cruz spoke Chatino. Bock also said state officials didn’t do enough to locate Cruz’s relatives to place the child with them.
“The MDHS staff interviewed did not see these issues as problematic. This leads us to conclude that this may be how business is conducted and that this is not an isolated incident,” Bock wrote.

It’s one solution to the Graham/Goehmert paranoia about ‘illegals dropping terror babies, to jump the citizenship queue’, but I don’t think anyone outside the far right wing would consider it a workable one. Let it be specified that the Tynes are no doubt wonderful people seeking only to give a birthright American infant (their idea of) the best possible start in life. But the tradition of removing “minority” children from their “inadequate” birth parents, stretching back to prehistoric tribal raids where underage and female survivors from the losing clan were considered valuable booty on the same level as any other livestock, has never had a good reputation. There’s even a rather famous story in the Old Testament about a certain at-risk infant adopted by the local aristocracy… and it could be argued that particular saga didn’t work out well for the adoptive parents, either.

From an earlier Time report about this case, “Can a Mother Lose Her Child Because She Doesn’t Speak English?”

… [D]espite DHS statements to the contrary, language seems a central issue in the state’s case against Baltazar Cruz. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened in the U.S. In 2004 a Tennessee judge ordered into foster care the child of a Mexican migrant mother who spoke only an indigenous tongue. (Another judge later returned the child to her family.) Last year, a California court took custody of the U.S.-born twin babies of another indigenous, undocumented migrant from Oaxaca. After she was deported, the Oaxaca state government’s Institute for Attention to Migrants fought successfully to have the twins repatriated to her in Mexico this summer. In such cases, says the SPLC’s Bauer, a lack of interpreters is a key factor. When a mother can’t follow the proceedings, “she looks unresponsive, and that conveys to a judge a lack of interest in the child, which is clearly not the case,” she says…
One of DHS’s apparent fears is that an infant isn’t safe in a home where the mother can articulate a 911 call solely in a language spoken only by some 50,000 Oaxacan Indians. Bauer points out that children have been raised safely in the U.S. by non-English-speaking parents for well over a century. Had they not, thousands of Italians and Russians would have had to leave their kids with foster care on Ellis Island. “Raising your child is one of the most fundamental liberties, and it can only be taken from you for the most serious concerns of endangerment,” says Bauer. “Not speaking English hardly meets that standard.”

53 replies
  1. 1

    Wow. Just…wow.

    This probably makes Alabama happy (“We’re Number Forty-Nine! We’re Number Forty-Nine!”) but I think that’s about it for positive spin.

  2. 2

    I don’t know the legal terminology but a lot of people involved are guilty of conspiracy to kidnap that child.

    Kidnapping is a felony, right?

    How do you spell RICO?

  3. 3
    beltane says:

    Are kidnapping and human trafficking among Realamerica’s most cherished traditions now?

  4. 4
    gmf says:

    I guarantee you, there’s a baptist church tangled up in this somewhere, too.

  5. 5

    I suppose we should be glad their little plan wasn’t more…Swiftian.

  6. 6

    While everybody is politickin’, you have to wonder, who’s watching cares about the baby?

  7. 7
    maye says:

    Living in Southern California, I’m surprised I’ve not heard about these cases of Mexican birthmothers not being able to speak Spanish. Regardless, it is very unusual for Mexican women to seek adoption. It is simply not in their culture. All over Mexico children are growing to adulthood living in orphanages because the concept of adoption is nonexistent.

    In 1996, I adopted the newborn baby of an illegal Mexican immigrant. Following California law, a Spanish-speaking social worker was brought in to walk her through the entire process. She had to complete a 40-page dossier about why she was placing her baby for adoption. After that she had 90 days to recind the deal with no questions asked. There was no space whatsoever for any ambiguity about her desire to place the baby for adoption.

    Also, at no time during the entire process was our birthmother questioned about her legal status by any county or state authority.

  8. 8
    Violet says:

    Wow, that’s just awful. And how tough must it be for the mother. She’s here in the US and doesn’t speak English, but also doesn’t speak much Spanish. She speaks a language spoken by a relatively small number of people and she’s not anywhere near where they speak it. And she doesn’t read or write, either. How incredibly isolated she must have felt. Were there any other Chatino-speaking Oaxacans in the area? What a lonely life, and then to have her baby taken from her. The mind boggles.

  9. 9
    beltane says:

    @gmf: The pastor of an Assembly of God church in my town has a multi-racial houseful of foster or adopted kids who don’t go to school, and who are always either playing in the road unsupervised or are performing yard work for the church. I get sick to my stomach every time I drive past there.

  10. 10
    maye says:

    @beltane: I wish my kid would do some yard work. I can’t get him to stop texting and facebooking long enough to eat breakfast.

  11. 11
    beltane says:

    @maye: My kids do chores but they are not doing hard labor during school hours.

  12. 12
    maye says:

    @beltane: are there no truancy laws in your state?

  13. 13
    beltane says:

    @maye: The laws regarding homeschooling are extremely lax. All anyone has to do is present a plan of study that was approved by someone with a teaching license. There is absolutely no follow-up or even minimum standards in place. On the hippie end of the spectrum I know of a few kids whose homeschooling is essentially the same as non-schooling. Living in a small town, no one really wants to say anything.

  14. 14
    NobodySpecial says:

    Are there no orphanages? No workhouses?

  15. 15
    roshan says:

    @Joey Maloney:
    Alabama –> 49th?. More like 22nd, dude.
    49th is the state which gave us, our lady of perpetual grievance, missus Palin.

  16. 16
    beltane says:

    Some of these good people are most likely hoping for the opportunity to similarly “adopt” Muslim babies so they can shower them with Christian love and forced baptism.

  17. 17
    scav says:

    @roshan: There are rankings other than temporal.

  18. 18
    Gina says:

    Wait, that language they speak in Mississippi is ENGLISH? The more you know…

  19. 19

    After many years in the public school system being told by CPS workers that some of the most truly appalling conditions did not warrant removal of a child from a situation, I am just speechless in the face of the removal of a child for this reason.

  20. 20
    thalarctos says:

    @roshan: Not chronologically, but on indices like literacy, infant mortality, and so forth. Hence the saying from my childhood, “Thank God for Mississippi”–it keeps Alabama from being dead last

  21. 21
    roshan says:

    Oh, that. Got it.

  22. 22
    Starfish says:

    @beltane: It’s called unschooling.

  23. 23
    Dennis G. says:

    An amazing story. The SPLC, like the NAACP, is on the front lines of justice these days.

    There really are many different ways to run a human trafficking ring and this is one of them.

    It really is easy to traffic in the babies of the poor–especially with the backing of the State Government like these traffickers had in Mississippi.

    I’m sure that Haley the nit diddler is proud of these entrepreneurial efforts of his government. And I’m sure that he thinks the SPLC are the ‘bad guys’ for exposing it.


  24. 24
    beltane says:

    @Starfish: Thanks for that link. It is a relief to find out there is a philosophical underpinning to sitting on your butt smoking pot all day while your kids play unsupervised among junked cars and broken farm equipment.

  25. 25
    Betsy says:

    I’ve heard that in Texas and New Mexico, too. Probably Arkansans say it too. There are apparently many states grateful for Mississippi’s existence.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    serge says:

    Having just returned from Europe, you know, that place where they talk funny, I’m comforted by the fact that we’re still so fucked up here.

    Thank you, Mississippi, for once again making South Carolina look good by comparison. Oh, shit, that just reminded me that I still have Missy Graham and Junk DeMint (sounds French) to worry about. We’re so screwed…

  28. 28


    I thought the right to raise your own children was as fundamental as the right to protect RealMarriage (TM) from the threat of same sex marriage.

    Oh, that’s right. These women are brown and don’t speak Amuricun.

    Silly me.

    [Edit – At the risk of being hyperbolic, this reminds me of the R.C.C.’s practice of taking poor – primarily Irish – children from “unfit” parents and shipping them off to Australia. I know it’s not the same intent, but the idea of taking kids from parents for such flimsy reasons strikes me as automatically Doubleplus Ungood.]

  29. 29

    The SPLC continues its marathon efforts to give a voice to the silenced:

    Breitbart is siccing a fake hooker on Morris Dees as we speak.

  30. 30
    MaryRC says:

    @Starfish: I thought that was a parody site when I first clicked on it. Apparently not. A post on the site from one Nancy E. Dodge seems to be typical of the unschooling philosophy: “It was difficult … to just let my son wander around the outside of the property, sit in a tree, talk to himself, check the fridge for new developments, and play Nintendo” but she learned to let go and now Jon is reading a book by himself! She wrote this in 1999, making Jon around 21 by now. I wonder what he’s doing with his time these days.

  31. 31
    Origuy says:

    This is what happened to Native Americans in the USA and Canada for generations. Children were taken from their parents and raised in boarding schools where their languages and cultures were suppressed.

  32. 32
    elm says:

    @Origuy, @kommrade reproductive vigor:

    See also, Ireland’s Industrial Schools and Magdalene Laundries with a curriculum of kidnapping, rape, slavery, physical abuse, and rape.

  33. 33
    EconWatcher says:

    I used to be heavily involved in death penalty work and was once approached by someone who was recruiting for SPLC, so I looked into the organization. I didn’t much care for what I found. I don’t know if everything in this somewhat older article from Harper’s has held up, but it’s pretty troubling:


    SPLC has been incredibly successful in fundraising. Morris Dees was and is a very effective salesman and direct marketer. But the positive impact of SPLC just does not appear to be commensurate with its funding.

    A lot of what SPLC’s done seems more focused on media citations than real impact. I guess reasonable minds might differ on this, but I don’t really see the point of spending years seeking almost entirely uncollectible civil judgments against racist groups, particularly where the individuals involved are going to jail anyway.

    Sure, they deserve it, and it’ll be easy pickins’ to get a hefty (uncollectible) judgment because they won’t be defended by real lawyers and the people involved are grotesque and indefensible. And when it’s over, you get to put out a press release describing your multi-million judgment against some obvious bad guys and use that in your next fundraising letter. But in the real world, what have you changed? By the way, a lot of plaintiff-side personal injury lawyers use a similar trick, describing in advertizing the massive multi-million dollar verdicts they’ve won, without mentioning that the case was against a “judgment proof” and undefended party, so the action was essentially unopposed and the judgment uncollectible.

    To me, the place also gives off unsettling vibes. To put it as nicely as possible, it seems to have been too personality-driven and too focused on a certain kind of publicity.

    Here’s a rule of thumb: You usually know whether a lawsuit has any impact by how vigorously it’s opposed.

  34. 34
    EconWatcher says:

    By the way, I notice that my link to the Harper’s article goes to a wingnut site, but I believe the article is quoted there accurately–it’s just the first link I could find. You can easily find other links.

    And while it’s true that SPLC has many of the “right enemies,” I wouldn’t look to that as a defense. I think the views I expressed are pretty wipespread among people on our side of the table who’ve had dealings with them.

  35. 35
    Mum says:


    22nd or 49th in what?

  36. 36
    Mum says:

    @kommrade reproductive vigor:

    The Christians did it to Native American children, and the Catholic Church did it to Jewish children – all in efforts to “save” them, of course.

  37. 37
    Roger Moore says:


    Living in Southern California, I’m surprised I’ve not heard about these cases of Mexican birthmothers not being able to speak Spanish.

    You might not have heard about it because the immigrant community here is strong enough to be in a much better position to protect people in cases like this. An immigrant here who spoke an obscure language would be much more likely to be part of a larger community, some of whose members would speak enough English or Spanish to help protect her. The hospital where she gave birth would have more experience dealing with illegal immigrants and would be less likely to pull the authorities in. The authorities would have enough experience dealing with Mexican immigrants that they wouldn’t automatically assume that somebody from Mexico must speak good Spanish, and they’d be much more likely to have a translators who could speak obscure Native American languages like Chatino. None of those things would guarantee that the same situation couldn’t happen here, but taken together they make the whole situation much less likely.

  38. 38
    frosty says:

    @Starfish: This is priceless:

    …most of us have learned to hate math because of the way it was taught in school. There are a great many ways to encounter math in the real world. Geometry can be found in quilt making, algebra in painting a room. Shifting perspectives, from textbooks to the real world is sometimes difficult, but math that is actually used is math truly learned.

    Geometry can be found in learning how to connect axioms and logic into a proof. Algebra can be found by working problems where you learn that the expressions on either side of the equal sign are equal. Until you learn these things, the only math you’ll “actually use in the real world” will be counting on your fingers.


  39. 39
    AxelFoley says:


    Wait, that language they speak in Mississippi is ENGLISH? The more you know…

    LOL, and that’s one to grow on…

  40. 40
    AxelFoley says:


    Serge? Get the fuck outta here! Serge, it’s me, Axel!

    50 cool points to anyone who gets that reference, LOL.

  41. 41
    Dr. Psycho says:

    After talking with Cruz, the interpreter told one of the immigrant’s relatives that Cruz was trading sex for housing and wanted to give the child up for adoption, according to the lawsuit. Cruz said in the court filing that she tried to explain to the interpreter she worked in a Chinese restaurant and lived in an apartment.

    Man, that is one very bad interpreter.

  42. 42
    shortstop says:

    All of this could have been avoided if the Oaxacans hadn’t arrogantly refused to assimilate. Welcome to Mexico! Now speak Spanish!

  43. 43
    Nerem says:

    Can you find that “Harper Magazine” article anywhere else but on a blatantly obvious right-wing website?

    They don’t even link to the original or give real citation. And instead of linking to Harper Magazine, it links to multiple dead right-wing websites.

    Sorry, but this sounds like those guys who “quote” from the New York Times things it does not say.

  44. 44
    jenniebee says:

    The language barrier makes it worse, but from what I can tell the biggest factor in getting child protection agencies involved is income. Cruising fost/adopt blogs, I’ve come across stories where (for example) a mother lost her children because an ex-boyfriend volunteered to watch them while she went to work. She agreed, not realizing that he was still harboring some resentment over the breakup. As soon as she had left, he left the kids alone and reported the mom for child abandonment. The oldest kid was 9, and I distinctly remember being a latch-key kid and watching my younger brothers at that age and I’m certain that we would never have been taken from my parents over that, but I was in a middle class suburb and these kids were living in an apartment in the low-rent district.

    Sometimes the stories are a lot less sympathetic, ranging from “after our third trip to the hospital they told me I couldn’t keep the kids unless I leave my husband and that is so unfair” to “I explained to the police that they weren’t my crack pipes and I don’t know why the car I was driving was reported stolen, but they’re all out to get me.” Reading some of these howlings from dispossessed parents can lead to actual nausea – to a one, they all insist that the true abuse done to their kids happened when the kids were removed from them (often the nature of the abuse they describe is that their children are now inadequately disciplined) and they’ll rant against Big Brother for abusing their kids by vaccinating them, and then call for grass-roots action against the ACLU for not taking their case or even (I shit you not) having a written application for free legal services. True “defenders of freedom” don’t ask you to explain your case in writing.

    Anyway, it’s unlikely that the adoptive parents chose the fost/adopt route as a way to cut out the birth mother. Going fost/adopt drags out the process and gives the birth mother more opportunities and rights than a straight up adoption. It’s tragic, but “open” adoptions are in no way legally enforceable by the birth mother. Once she signs away her parental rights, she’s at the mercy of the adoptive parents. Lawyers sometimes tell prospective adoptive parents to agree to anything the birth mother wants in the contract, because there’s simply no remedy for the birth mother if the adoptive parents don’t honor the agreement.

  45. 45
    Ruckus says:

    If I give your opinion 100% credence about SPLC, I have to ask, what is the alternative? What is better? Who else is doing anything? Most of issues they take up really are criminal acts against state interests but if the state does nothing or so little as to be the same, what else can be done other than civil lawsuits? The DOJ filing charges? That seems to happen, if not very rarely, not often enough.
    Where would this country be without the SPLC, ACLU and NAACP? I put these 3 groups together as they seem to be working towards if not the same at least similar goals. YMMV. Would the government make the same arguments? I think not as passionately.
    They may not be your cup of tea or act in your opinion properly, but until I see something better come along, I don’t see why they should not be supported.

  46. 46
    Darnell says:

    I don’t care what anybody says, I say let the states of the old confederacy leave and have their own nation. They add nothing of value to this nation.

  47. 47
    timb says:

    @heydave: no, we don’t

  48. 48
    timb says:

    @EconWatcher: so, the evil people in the world are plaintiff’s attorneys and the SLPC….

    interesting views

  49. 49
    Shalimar says:

    @EconWatcher: I have met Morris Dees several times and he basically comes across as a narcissist imo. And the SPLC is not an organization that I would give money to because they already have more than enough to do what they do. That said, they do excellent work that no one else does and should be applauded for that. Whatever Dees’ personal motivations have been over the years, it is the end results that matter in this case and the SPLC does far more good than harm.

  50. 50
    sherifffruitfly says:

    (shrug) Declare the State Of Mississippi a hate group, and be done with them. Sheesh.

  51. 51
    EconWatcher says:

    Ruckus: An example of a good organization that has real impact is, in my opinion, the Southern Center for Human Rights, http://www.schr.org/

    Timb: You really need to brush up on your reading comprehension. I did not say plaintiffs’ lawyers are bad. I said that it’s misleading for plaintiffs’ lawyers to advertise their supposed prior successes by claiming huge verdicts from cases where they were basically unopposed and the judgment was uncollectible–as some of them do, and SPLC does something similar. And my criticisms of SPLC were based on the Harper’s article and the views of many people in the death penalty/civil rights field, in which I worked pro bono for a number of years. So either show why I’m mistaken or clam up, OK? Jackass.

  52. 52
    Rathskeller says:

    @Starfish: Thanks for the link, although it made me very sad to read through that site. There was one short article where a mother observes her daughter playing on the swing for an hour and a half. Her daughter comes in and tells her all of her observations and conclusions, which were detailed, interesting, and only half accurately explained. However, since her mother is also as uneducated as she is making her daughter, this was a confirmatory lesson on the value on unschooling and the power of imagination.

    Sure, if you are so invincibly ignorant that you think an 8 year old’s guess about gravity is valuable information, never to be added to or corrected.

  53. 53
    Nerem says:


    The Harper’s article that can only be found on right-wing websites and nowhere else?

    Good job trusting that.

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