A tug-of-war over a five-year-old boy is at the center of a national debate over parental rights and immigration, and a sign of what critics say is a growing trend in which immigrants are being deemed unfit parents because they crossed the border illegally.
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According to a report from the Applied Research Center, "Shattered Families," as of the summer of 2011 an estimated 5,100 children in 22 states were in foster care after their parents were either detained or deported. Immigration attorneys and children's welfare advocates say a small but troubling number, like Jamison, have been put up for adoption to American families after their birth parents were stripped of their parental rights.
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Bail Romero's "lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into a country illegally and committing crimes in this country is not a lifestyle that can provide stability for a child," Circuit Court Judge David C. Dally wrote in his 2008 decision terminating her parental rights. "A child cannot be educated in this way, always in hiding or on the run."
Dally's judgment had held no mention of Seth Moser's own criminal background. According to court records, Moser, as a teenager, served almost a year in jail after pleading guilty to a felony count involving possession of stolen property. According to Bail Romero's court filings, Moser also has admitted to drug use.
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The Mosers argue that it is better for Carlos to stay with them, not in Guatemala with his mother after her impending deportation.
"In terms of best interest, I mean, that almost goes without saying," the Mosers' attorney, Joseph Hensley, told the court in 2008, according to a brief filed by Bail Romero's attorneys. "[This] child is an American citizen. The mother is a Guatemalan citizen, and she will be returning to Guatemala. ... I think the best interest standard always weighs very, very, heavily in favor of my clients."
Bail Romero says she's thankful to the Mosers for taking care of her son, "but, as Carlitos' mother, I need him to be with me," she said, "because I'm his real mother."
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