In re Interest of Angelica L. & Daniel L. (State v. Maria L.)

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Immigration
  • Parental Rights
  • Authored Amicus Brief
2009

In this case, the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right of immigrant parents to care for, have custody of, and control over their children. The Court ruled that Maria Luis, a Guatemalan woman, should not lose custody of her children because she was deported from the United States.

Summary of the Case

This case concerns the parental rights of Maria Luis, a Quiche-speaking, undocumented Guatemalan immigrant whose children were taken away from her by Nebraska child protective services when she failed to take her baby to a follow up medical visit. When Luis’ daughter was diagnosed with a respiratory infection the health care provider failed to obtain an interpreter who spoke Quiche and instead instructed her in Spanish on her child’s future care. Luis was subsequently detained by immigration authorities and removed from the United States.

While in detention and later from Guatemala Maria Luis took significant steps to reunite with her children. However, because Nebraska child protective services and the Nebraska courts repeatedly failed to communicate with her and provide her a case reunification plan in the only language she could understand—Quiche—she was unable to succeed in having her children returned to her and her parental rights were terminated.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum argued in the amicus brief that the Nebraska courts denied Luis her fundamental constitutional right to care and custody of her children without providing her a meaningful opportunity to participate fully in the state actions and court proceedings that led to termination of her parental rights. The court assumed that it was in the children’s best interest to live in foster care in the United States rather than be raised by their mother in Guatemala.

Decision

The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right of immigrant parents to care for, have custody of, and control over their children. The ruling protects mothers from the unconstitutional deprivation of their children without a showing of parental unfitness.