Connecticut couple charged with baby smuggling from Guatemala

A Connecticut couple, Maria Gonzalez (an Argentinian citizen and legal permanent resident of the US) and Frederick Gonzalez Lopez (a native Guatemalan and naturalized US citizen), have been charged with smuggling a Guatemalan baby into the United States in 2009, using an illegal passport, according to an article by Stephen Kalin published by the Associated Press. As you know, international adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed in December 2007, and thus no adoption took place.

This case reminds me very much of a similar episode that happened to a friend of mine in California. Some years ago, ”Sally” and her husband wished to adopt a baby, and an acquaintance of theirs, a Guatemalan national living in California, who possessed a passport that allowed him to cross international borders, said he knew of a baby “available” in Guatemala. For a large fee, the man offered to falsify a Guatemalan birth certificate, bring the baby into the US, and arrange a private adoption here. Sally declined the offer, and ultimately formed her family in another way. Until Sally told me her story, I never considered this possibility, but upon reflection, and acknowledging the ease with which some documents in Guatemala may be falsified, I realize this may be easier than it may first appear.

This week, another friend living in Guatemala said that the Connecticut case is being reported widely there—and rightfully so. Nobody wants to see the law of their land circumvented, particularly when the law involves a baby illegally being taken across international borders. One of the many tragedies here is that the fall-out from this case may affect the approximately 100 families of the Guatemala 900 who have been trying to finish their cases legally since the adoption shutdown. I hope not.

Please read the entire AP article to get all the facts. Here’s an excerpt:

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut couple has been charged with smuggling an infant from Guatemala into the United States.

A federal complaint released Thursday says 42-year old Maria Gonzalez of Stamford and her husband, 36-year-old Henry Fernandez Lopez of Fairfield, brought the infant into the country after making an agreement with the child’s mother who was 14 years old at the time.

The couple is charged with illegally bringing an immigrant into the U.S. and harboring the child, as well as conspiracy to commit those acts.

Gonzalez also is charged with misuse of a U.S. passport and forgery or false use of a passport.

The case may represent the desperate measures that prospective parents are willing to take to adopt children from Guatemala since that country shut down its international adoption program more than five years ago. The country’s quick-stop adoptions had made the nation of 14 million people the world’s second-largest source of babies to the U.S. after China.

But the vibrant business came to a halt after an August 2007 raid on what was considered the country’s most reputable adoption agency, used by many Americans. Guatemala remains closed to inter-country adoption, according to the National Council for Adoption.

Gonzalez revealed to Homeland Security officials in 2012 that she was connected to a pregnant teenager in Guatemala through a former coworker’s mother living there. She said she traveled to Guatemala in March 2009 and met the teenager, accompanied her to a doctor’s visit and arranged to take custody of the child at birth in exchange for paying for the delivery and additional unspecified costs.

The teenager was interviewed by US officials in Guatemala who described her neighborhood as ‘‘poverty-stricken and a high crime area.’’ She revealed that the infant she had given to Gonzalez and Lopez was the result of a rape by a family member. She also confirmed that she had agreed to give her child to Gonzalez but said she had never signed any adoption papers.

Gonzalez said that the doctor in Guatemala had informed her that an adoption could not take place because the birth mother was an orphan and did not have a birth certificate.

[Note from me: Of course no adoption could take place because adoptions were shut down. How could the Connecticut couple not know this?]

After the infant was born, Gonzalez attempted to acquire travel documents for the child from the US embassy in Guatemala City but was refused when she could not prove she was the birth mother. The complaint claims that she then paid a Guatemalan man $6,000 for a fraudulent US passport for the child.

Travel records show that Gonzalez crossed into California with the infant in July 2009 by using the forged passport.

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