The Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) recently ruled that a woman was an unfit mother because she can't speak English. The DHS declared that the inability to speak English, "placed her unborn child in danger and will place the baby in danger in the future."
Baltazar Cruz is a 34-year-old women from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. She is from a small village of 1,500 people, almost all of them Chatino Indians like herself. Cruz, who was raised speaking Chatino, speaks only a little bit of Spanish and no English. In the early 2000's she immigrated to the U.S., hoping to escape the poverty of her small, remote village, and send money back to her mother and two children.
Eventually, she found work in a restaurant along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. She became pregnant (she refuses to identify the father) and gave birth to her third child last November at the Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MI where she currently lives. For unknown reasons, the hospital called the DHS and Cruz's baby girl, Rubí, was taken from her.
Cruz is now in the process of being deported while also fighting to regain custody of a child ripped away from its mother for no logical reason. Luckily, Cruz has some advocates. Her case has been taken by the Mississippi Immigrants' Rights Alliance (MIRA) and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Although the lawyers are unable to comment on the case due to a legal gag order, Mary Bauer, the SPLC's legal director, told Time magazine
that the idea that a mother can lose custody of her child because she doesn't speak a particular language "is an fundamentally outrageous violation of human rights."
Although the DHS has repeatedly stated that language has nothing to do with why the child was stolen from its mother, this is, unfortunately not the first time that something like this has happened. In 2004 a Tennessee judge ordered a child of a Mexican migrant mother who spoke only an indigenous language into foster care. And just last year, a California
court took custody of the U.S.-born twins of another indigenous, illegal immigrant from Oaxaca. In both cases, the children were eventually returned to their rightful families.