Via the inestimable Ms. R, from whom I get much of my wacky parenting news: this story from the NYT tells about foreign parents losing their American-born children when they’re arrested for immigration violations.

Much of the article focuses on a woman who was arrested when her son was 6 months old. During her incarceration by the feds awaiting deportation, a state judge gave her now-two-year-old child away for adoption.

The article subtly displays the inherent racism and class prejudice of the case: a poor Latina woman gets inadequate legal representation and resources, and her child is adopted out to an upper-middle-class American family. The judge who gave her child away says, ““Her lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into the country illegally and committing crimes in this country, is not a lifestyle that can provide stability for a child.”

The message: being American is better than anything else, and to truly be American you must perform middle-class values.

It might be argued that the judge is right; the adopting couple can offer this little boy a “better” life than his biological mother. To believe that, you have to buy into the notion that middle-class is “better” than poor and a life here is “better” than a life in Guatemala. Ms. Bail, the boys mother, clearly does not. “My parents were poor, and they never gave me to anyone,” Ms. Bail recalled. “I was not going to give my son to anyone either.”

Of course the things the judge wants for Ms. Bail’s son – stability, an education, a “good” home – are the things I want for my kids. In a perfect all children would be awarded an equal measure of love, education, and a happy home life. Quite possibly this judge’s decision gives the kid a statistically higher chance at getting the things many people want: a long healthy life, a college education, safety from violence and crime, etc.

I don’t think it’s right though, for the judge to simply reassign the kid to a “better” family. Bail is not accused of doing anything wrong as a mother; she’s accused of being in this country illegally, where she was working at a factory. One might even imagine that she risked her own life and left her home to come here and work in the hope of giving her own children a better future. It’s shocking to me that her parental rights were even on the table as a possible loss in these circumstances. We don’t normally empower our legal officials to go around scooping up children who are in adequate-but-poor homes and farming them out to richer families. This woman is being victimized because she’s not an American citizen.

Of course, the tragedy has already occurred. The kid is living now with his adoptive parents, the only family he’s ever known. It really would be wrong to wrench him from that home to deport him alongside his mother to a country who’s language he does not speak with a woman he does not know to parent him.

I’d like to hope the attention this case has gotten will spark some reform within the immigration system, to prevent future incidents. But I don’t imagine it will. It’s just another friendly reminder from the press that racism and classism are alive and well within our borders.