Adoption Battle Over 5-Year Old Boy Pits Missouri Couple Vs. Illegal Immigrant


Seth and Melinda Moser Legally Adopt Boy

One year later, with Bail Romero unable to understand the language in which the adoption proceedings were being carried out, unable to attend court hearings and despite her statement that she did not want her son to be adopted, Seth and Melinda Moser legally adopted the little boy.

Bail Romero got out of prison in 2009 and has been fighting to get her son back ever since.

"I never gave my consent for the boy to be adopted by anyone," she said.

Still, the judge had ruled that Bail Romero had willfully abandoned her son and couldn't offer him a future. The Mosers, in contrast, were found to be fit parents who were ready to take care of a child.

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.

The Mosers, through their lawyer, Joseph Hensley, declined to be interviewed by ABC News for this story. Hensley has told the court that Moser has turned his life around since his legal problems as a youth.

It wasn't until two months after Dally's decision legally transferred parental rights to the Mosers that Bail Romero was appointed a lawyer by the court. Then, seven months later, Bail Romero was appointed another lawyer, one who was initially contacted by the Mosers.

Without any policies in place to regulate the care of U.S. citizen children while their parents are detained, immigrant parents are unable to attend court hearings, contact caseworkers, complete parenting classes or take any of the necessary steps to meet the strict timelines dictated by juvenile courts.

"And the result is that nobody is really recognizing that there's a parent there trying desperately to communicate that they want to still be involved with their child," said Nina Rabin, an immigration attorney with the University of Arizona's Immigration Law and Policy Institute.

And it's those parents that are slipping through the cracks between two huge bureaucracies, she said.

"These are parents that this is happening to, that have the same bond with their children that we have with our children," Rabin said. "And to separate them with so little thought and so little flexibility seems beyond any punishment I can think -- I mean, it's worse than any punishment I can think of, to do that to a parent."

A spokesman for ICE, the federal government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said such cases are rare. "ICE is sensitive to the fact that encountering those who violate our immigration laws may impact families," said spokesperson Brian Hale. "ICE uses prosecutorial discretion in releasing individuals from ICE custody for humanitarian reasons such as being the sole caregiver of minors and when we are aware that the detention of a non-criminal alien would result in any child (U.S. citizen or not) being left without a parental caregiver. We take great strides to evaluate cases that warrant humanitarian release."

READ the full ICE statement.

Battle Goes to Missouri Supreme Court

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