Judge claimed inability to speak English would cause 'developmental problems' in a baby before ruling against immigrant mother

By Victoria Greene,

An immigrant woman whose baby was taken from her, is suing Mississippi’s welfare agency.

Cirila Baltazar Cruz gave birth to a child in November 2008 while in Pascagoula, Mississippi, however the child was taken from her before she left the hospital, according to Think Progress.

Baltazar Cruz, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, speaks little Spanish and even less English. Her native tongue is Chatino, a language spoken by the Chatino people, an indigenous group.

While in the hospital, Baltazar Cruz was interviewed by hospital staff and an interpreter who was present, and spoke Spanish, but not Chatino. Social service officials told Baltazar Cruz’s family that she was trading sex for housing and wanted to give her newborn up, according to The Associated Press. However, Baltazar Cruz’s cousin disagreed.

The cousin, who speaks Chatino, tried to tell officials that Baltazar Cruz worked at a Chinese restaurant, had her own apartment, and hadn’t said any of the things the interpreter said, but she was ignored.

The health department was called in and filed a report of suspected abuse and neglect against the new mother. Officials gave Cruz’s baby to a couple who wanted to adopt her, but were not licensed as foster parents. During a court hearing to decide the fate of the child, Judge Sharon Sigalas agreed with the couple’s claim that the baby would have “developmental” problems because Cruz would not communicate with the baby in English.

Baltazar Cruz was separated from her child for a year and it was with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, that she was able to get her daughter back.

There was a federal investigation of Baltazar Cruz’s case and the judge, prosecutor, and guardian of the child, who were all involved in the original case, claimed there was now a conflict of interest and backed away from the case.

The judge who replaced Sigalas granted Baltazar Cruz custody and she has since returned to Mexico with her child.

There is no trial date for the lawsuit, which was filed in 2010.

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