Infant Returned to Mother After Missouri Appellate Court Reaffirms Parental Rights of Immigrant Parent

MALDEF filed amicus brief to address concern that state circuit court judge improperly considered the immigration status of the child’s mother with adoption petition

July 23, 2010

JASPER, MO – On July 21, 2010, in the case of In Re The Adoption Of C.M.B.R., a Missouri appellate judge reversed the lower court’s grant of an adoption of the child of an undocumented immigrant on the grounds that the mother’s parental rights were unlawfully destroyed through an improper adoption procedure. The child had been "placed" for adoption by the child's babysitters with neither the knowledge nor the consent of the mother. MALDEF had filed an amicus brief in the case out of concern that the lower court judge had improperly considered the mother’s immigration status when he terminated the mother’s parental rights. The appellate court held that the adoption was invalid and ordered the child be returned to the mother.

Ricardo Meza, MALDEF’s Midwest Regional Counsel stated: “MALDEF is very pleased with the ruling and we are particularly pleased that the Missouri Court of Appeals recognized that a mother’s immigration status has never been ‘one of the factor to consider when determining whether to terminate parental rights.’”

In the lower court ruling, the judge stated that the “[Mother’s] lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into the country illegally and committing crimes in this country is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for a child. A child cannot be educated in this way, always in hiding or on the run.”

MALDEF argued in its amicus brief that the mother was treated differently than other similarly situated individuals, specifically other incarcerated individuals who were not undocumented, in violation of the equal protection laws afforded to her under the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions.

The appellate court found that “It is clear from the record that there were serious failures to follow statutory requirements in this case.” The court found that the trial court lacked the statutory authority to transfer custody of the child away from the mother, to consider the petition of the third-party adoptive family, and to terminate the parental rights of the mother. The appellate court ruled that the adoption was invalid based on the lower court's grant of the adoption without the statutorily-mandated placement requirements governing private adoption, pursuant to section 453.014, RSMo.

MALDEF continues to fight for Latino families and communities across the nation and protect them from abuses of legal process and unfair treatment. MALDEF seeks to ensure that all are given equal protection under the law and applauds the recent decision by the Missouri appellate court to return a child back to the child’s mother.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund