Should Speaking English be a Requirement for Moms?Madeline Holler
Short answer, no. Actually, that’s the long answer, too.
Yet late last fall, authorities took Cirila Baltazar Cruz’s two-day-old daughter Rubi from the Pascagoula, Mississippi, hospital where she was born and placed her in foster care.
Hospital social workers claimed in a report that Ruby was a neglected and in need of protection. The evidence? Quoting the report, the Clarion-Ledger and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, say authorities were concerned that the baby “was born to an illegal immigrant,” the “mother had not purchased a crib, clothes, food or formula,” and that “she does not speak English which puts baby in danger.”
Indeed, Cruz does not speak English, nor Spanish. She comes from the southern Mexico highlands of Oaxaca and speaks only Chatino, an indigenous language.
The county department that deemed the child in need of a new family not provide Cruz with a Chatino translator. In fact, not until activist groups got involved was a Chatino translator tracked down in LA — months later.
The report also claimed that Cruz “was exchanging living arrangements for sex,” and that she had planned to put the baby up for adoption anyway. You have to ask, though, if she couldn’t communicate with authorities, how did they squeeze out that kind of detail from the mom? Are we talking about a situation where the mom wasn’t married to the father?
Even if she had intended on placing the baby for adoption, is the process really for social workers to walk away with the child? Of course it’s not. Baltazar Cruz wasn’t given the chance to make her case.
And those diapers and bottles? Had they not considered that the mom may have been planning to co-sleep and breastfeed.
Rubi has been placed with an affluent family in the area, which has brought forth accusations of baby-snatching and forced adoption from many of those concerned about the case. Meanwhile, Baltazar Cruz is up for deportation.
It seems to me that, at the most, Cruz’s case warrants a more thorough investigation and that separating the baby from her (possibly intending to breastfeed) mother was, in itself, harmful and negligent. Exchanging living arrangements for sex is tragic, yes. But I love how the authorities righteously take the baby but throw the mom back into this purported situation.
This case seems impossible — that a report could site language barriers as reasons for neglect. Emergency help is also difficult to call for if you don’t have a cell phone — or even a land line. Should all off the grid people also be required to put their kids in foster care?
Apparently, this isn’t the only case of immigrants who don’t speak English — or another of the world’s major languages — haven’t been given adequate access to translators of languages in which the accused are competent. English, Spanish and Mandarin aren’t the only languages on the planet. They’re the biggies, sure. But they don’t cover everyone.
You can listen to an interview of Baltazar Cruz here.