Thursday, May 12, 2005

New York Times explores Lebanon's "learn English or else" child custody case

The New York Times dives deeper into the child custody case in Lebanon in which Judge Barry Tatum ordered a Mexican mother to learn English or risk losing her child.

"For 11-year-old Linda Berrera Cano, life changed with the stroke of a judge's pen. Lifted out of a crowded trailer where meals might consist of nothing but tortillas, she now lives in a brick ranch house with a basketball hoop in the driveway, a swimming pool in the backyard, and her own twin bed and wooden vanity."

"She has not seen her mother [Felipe Berrera], an illiterate factory worker from Mexico who speaks only the indigenous language Mixtecan, in over a year. Instead, she calls Emily and Warren Patterson her mommy and daddy, as in, 'Look, Mommy, I can do the monkey bars.'"

"Ms. Berrera's situation drew wide attention and considerable outrage in October when a county judge in this town near Nashville ordered her to learn English or run the risk of 'losing any connection - legally, morally and physically - with her daughter forever.' But the case is far more nuanced than that stark command suggests, raising questions of cultural misunderstanding, good intentions and bad communication in a place that, like much of the South, is struggling to absorb rapid demographic change."

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