Mom Sues After State Takes Baby in Hospital Translation Horror

Hospital officials deemed the mother unfit because she spoke an indigenous language.

By Jamilah King Aug 17, 2010

Mississippi state officials are accused of conspiring to take the infant of an undocumented woman in order to place the girl with a white couple, according to a lawsuit filed recently by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Cirila Baltazar Cruz, an undocumented woman from Oaxaca who speaks neither English nor Spanish, had to fight for a year to regain custody of her infant daughter, Ruby. The lawsuit alleges that the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) deemed Cruz unfit after hospital officials were unable to communicate with her shortly after the girl was born.

Cruz speaks Chatino, an indigenous dialect that the hospital’s interpreter didn’t know. Instead, after trying to talk with Cruz, the interpreter surmised that she was prostituting herself for food and housing and was already planning to give the girl up for adoption. Cruz has said in court filings that she was trying to explain that she worked in a Chinese restaurant and lived in an apartment.

The child was then placed in the home of Wendy and Douglas Tynes, two white attorneys who were looking into adoption. The complaint alleges that MDHS officials conspired with the Tynes’ and a youth court judge. Cruz now lives with the girl in Mexico.

The suit has helped shed light on similar cases. According to the New York Daily News, immigrant rights attorneys say the problem is that federal laws govern undocumented immigrants, but their children, who are often U.S. citizens because they were born here, are under state jurisdiction.

"When they tried to take my baby away I felt that I was done wrong, and I was very angry. It was a very painful experience for me and for my baby. This is why I want other people to know, because I don’t want anyone else to go through the same experience," Cruz said in a statement released last week by SPLC.