Friday, October 9, 2009

Lack of identification for background check was the reason DCS took children away from Maria Gurrola

"DCS is supposed to try to keep families together and there were plenty of relatives willing to take in the children"

2009 Ketron bill would make i.d. available to qualified visaless applicants

Nashvillian Maria Gurrola has been cleared of the baby-selling allegations that arose following the abduction of her son, Yair Carillo, but those allegations put her children in state custody for a few days until she was cleared. Yesterday, Travis Loller of the Associated Press reported the reason for the taking of the children.

Loller reports that the Tennessee Department of Children's Services ("DCS") took Maria Gurrola's children away from her during the investigation of the now-disproven allegations because some of Gurrola's family members, who could have otherwise taken the children, are visaless and don't have sufficient I.D. for a background check:
Maria Gurrola, still recovering from stab wounds and a collapsed lung, started crying and shaking when she learned week-old Yahir Anthony Carrillo and his three siblings would be put into foster homes, said Norma Rodriguez, the cousin of Jose Carrillo, the baby's father.
[Gurrola's court-appointed attorney Dennis] Nordhoff questioned the need to put the already-suffering family through the trauma of separation. He said DCS is supposed to try to keep families together and there were plenty of relatives willing to take in the children, but DCS would not allow it because they were illegal immigrants, although some of them had been in the country for many years without ever getting in any trouble. Gurrola is originally from Durango, Mexico.
[DCS Spokesman Rob] Johnson, speaking generally, said, "DCS always looks for relatives who already know a child as an alternative to state custody, but DCS must be able to perform background checks and DCS must be able to verify people's relationships to a family in question."
Over 40,000 visaless Tennesseans were stripped of their I.D. when the state changed its drivers license law in 2004. A 2009 bill by State Senator Bill Ketron (R) would make a state-issued I.D. available to qualified visaless applicants.

Gurrola's experience is another example of why it is important for everyone to be able to have I.D. Also, it's the first time that the family members' immigration status has been reported in a way that is relevant to the Gurrola story (see my Monday and Tuesday discussions of the relevance of immigration status to this story).

I say "visaless" and/or "unvisaed" instead of "undocumented," because it's the lack of a visa that more specifically describes people without immigration status. Most visaless people usually are in possession of whatever documents the government allows them to have - you've never seen a visaless immigrant driving without a license plate, have you? And until the change in TN law, the visaless had drivers' licenses, which made the term "undocumented" even more clearly inappropriate.

*And is it "Gurrola" or "Gurrolla"? The
Tennessean and now Loller's AP piece are using "Gurrola." The Nashville police department had previously reported both spellings, even in the same press release, but it appears that corrections have been made to unify the police department's spelling to "Gurrolla." On the other hand, the FBI's criminal complaint against the alleged abductor uses "Gurrola" exclusively. Google News searches show that there are many more stories with the "Gurrolla" spelling than with the "Gurrola" spelling.

Photo by atom heart father. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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