Mississippi authorities took a newborn baby from her Mexican immigrant mother and placed the daughter with two white Gulf Coast lawyers who frequently practiced law before the youth court judge who approved the child’s removal. The mother was then prohibited from speaking publicly about her family's ordeal despite her request to waive confidentiality rules of the youth court.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family and appealed the earlier gag order. The suit charges that the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), two of its employees and an employee of Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, Miss., conspired to take Cirila Baltazar Cruz’s baby and that the MDHS failed to properly investigate the false allegations made against her.
Two days after Baltazar Cruz gave birth to her daughter at Singing River Hospital in November 2008, the child was taken from her amid allegations provided by a hospital employee. The employee spoke only Spanish to the mother, who speaks limited Spanish and virtually no English. She speaks Chatino, an indigenous language in Mexico. Even after the allegations were found to be false, the MDHS employees named in the lawsuit perpetuated the separation, violating the mother’s due process and equal protection rights.
Baltazar Cruz was reunited with her daughter in November 2009 shortly after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service¹s (HHS) Office for Civil Rights and Administration for Children and Families. A letter from the HHS to the executive director of the Mississippi DHS noted that the state failed to comply with several requirements under federal law and regulations.
The letter said that the federal agency has “grave concerns” about the case. “The MDHS staff interviewed did not see these issues as problematic,” the letter says. “This leads us to conclude that this may be how business is conducted and that this is not an isolated incident.”