A Florida agency is set to deport a 10-month-old U.S. citizen to the country of his biological parents’ birth despite neither having custody of the child. The boy’s foster parents are requesting the government protect the child’s civil rights, claiming they are being overlooked in a haste to send him to Haiti to be supported by a grandparent and not U.S. taxpayer dollars.
In August, Broward Circuit Court Judge Jose Izquierdo sided with the Florida Department of Children & Families and ruled Angel Ector, the child, should be with his maternal grandmother in Haiti. Since December 2021, when the boy was six days old, he has lived with Tamara and Gerald Simmons, local station WSVN reports.
His biological parents released the boy to the Simmonses’ care for different reasons. The mother’s rights were terminated and the father — who lives in Haiti — did not want to be involved in the infant’s life. Since Angel has been placed in foster care it became known that he has a heart condition and needs special care.
The state welfare authority told the court Angel’s maternal grandmother, who lives in a mountainous region of Haiti outside of the capital of Port-au-Prince and has no stable income, said she would care for the child, and Judge Izquierdo, believing the responsibility for his care should go to her and not the foster care system and the foster parents, sided with the state. The Miami Herald reports that the court was told this decision is the wish of Angel’s mother, a U.S. citizen who reportedly lives in a homeless shelter and has severe mental health problems.
Angel’s foster parents are alarmed by the court ruling. Tamara Simmons told WSVN, “They want to take an American citizen child and strip him of his rights and dump him in a third-world country that is at war with itself.”
As described by CNN, this case comes at a time when there are daily protests and deadly conflicts in the streets of Haiti, as “gang violence, political turmoil, and humanitarian crises have seized control of the country.”
“What is going on there right now is not a good thing. It’s scary and it’s violent, and to send an infant into that with no protection, away from his only home, away from everybody he knows, to a place where he could possibly have food issues, not get clean water, that’s all very concerning,” said Tamara.
The foster parents initially agreed to consider handing over Angel to his grandmother, provided there are certain things in place. A social worker was assigned to the case and went to see the living conditions at the Haiti residence.
The state-appointed caseworker FaceTime called Tamara while she was at the grandmother’s home in Haiti. The grandmother, who currently is caring for another of Angel’s siblings, was living without certain essentials.
“There’s no plumbing in the home,” Tamara said the investigation found. “There’s no water in the home. There’s no electricity in the home.”
As a result, the family said they wanted to take the next steps to adoption, according to NBC Miami, “We agreed that we would apply to adopt him so that there were other options because we were in love with him anyway.”
But adoption may take longer than they have.
Florida State Rep. Dotie Joseph of North Miami agrees the child should remain in the U.S.
Joseph has reached out to the Southern Region-Florida Department of Children and Families to ask them to look into the case and help the family.
“My reaction is this is absurd,” Joseph told WSVN.
What complicates the story even more is that Angel has three other siblings in South Florida, who have all been adopted. Those children will be able to stay in America and not go to their shared grandmother in the French-speaking Caribbean country.
Tamara believes her foster child’s civil rights are being overlooked because he is a child with foreign-born parents.
“There are no laws to protect an American citizen baby, because no one ever thought they had to write a law,” the mom said, “and they have no way, there is no way for them to follow up on him.”
On Thursday, Oct. 27, a federal judge denied the family’s request to stop the child’s deportation. DCF is looking at the case and will not allow Angel to be sent to Haiti until their investigation is complete within the next week.