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  • Women in Nepal

    Women's Refugee Commission - Our Staff

    Encarnacion Bail Romero

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    In January 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court sent the case of a Guatemalan woman whose parental rights were terminated following an immigration raid at her workplace back to the lower court for a retrial. Encarnación Bail Romero, whose son was adopted by an American couple against her wishes, has been separated from her child for nearly four years. While the Supreme Court reversed the termination of Ms. Bail Romero’s parental rights and the adoption decision, the Court was unable to reunite Ms. Bail Romero with her son because procedural errors in the family court require the case to be tried again.

    In July 2012, the lower court released its decision, ruling against Ms. Bail Romero and reaffirming the termination of her parental rights. Ms. Bail Romero is expected to appeal the decision.

    Case History

    Encarnación Bail Romero, an undocumented woman from Guatemala and mother of Carlos, a six-month-old U.S. citizen, as detained in May 2007 when immigration agents raided a poultry processing plant in Missouri. Ms. Bail Romero was detained, even though she had a very young child, because immigration authorities alleged she had used false identification. The authorities charged her with identity theft—a charge that has since been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

    Initially, Carlos was cared for by two of Ms. Bail Romero’s sisters, who were also undocumented.  Her sisters each had three children of their own, so when a local teacher’s aide offered to have Carlos cared for by “clergy” of a local church, the women agreed. In the meantime, Encarnación tried to talk with her sisters, but could only do so occasionally and infrequently because she was only able to make short, collect calls. In September, the teacher's aide came to see Encarnación in jail where she tried to get her to sign a paper which would relinquish her custodial rights to Carlos.She refused. Later, when Carlos’s uncle went to pick him up from the “babysitter," he was told that marshals had taken Carlos away. When Ms. Bail Romero learned Carlos was missing, she tried to contact the aide and the sitters, but they did not answer her calls. In the meantime, Carlos had been given to a couple who were interested in adopting him. They served adoption papers to Ms. Romero in English, which she could not read, and several days later were given temporary custody of Carlos by a Missouri judge. 

    For the next ten months, Ms. Bail Romero had no communication with the court. The judge appointed an attorney for Ms. Romero, but he did nothing to defend her case. Ms. Bail Romero asked the public defender who was representing her during the identity theft case to help obtain a passport for Carlos, but was told she was unable to help because such a request was considered an immigration matter. Ms. Bail Romero pled guilty to identify theft and was transferred to a federal facility in West Virginia.

    In October 2008, the judge held a hearing for the adoption petition. Ms. Bail Romero was not present as she was unable to attend the proceedings while incarcerated. Ms. Bail Romero’s attorney presented no witnesses and the hearing lasted less than two hours. The judge then ruled that Ms. Bail Romero had “abandoned” her son, terminated her parental rights and changed her son’s first and last names.

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