Friday, May 23, 2008

FLDS children going home

The FLDS children in Texas will likely be going back to their homes soon after a higher state court ruling:

HOUSTON — A Texas appeals court ruled on Thursday that the state had illegally seized up to 468 children from their homes at a polygamist ranch in West Texas. The decision abruptly threw the largest custody case in recent American history into turmoil.

Although the court did not order the children’s immediate release, it raised the prospect that many of them would be reunited with their families, possibly within 10 days. The children have been in foster homes scattered across Texas since early April, making their parents travel hundreds of miles to visit them.

I had doubts from the start that sweeping up all the children in a community, separating them from their siblings, and throwing them into foster care was in the best interests of the children in every case. There has been evidence of abuses, and young teenagers shouldn’t be permitted to be married off to old men by their parents, but there are better ways to police the situation than raiding the community and taking away all the kids.

The case began on April 3, when Texas investigators, saying they were responding to a girl’s call for help, raided the 1,691-acre Yearning for Zion ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eldorado, about 45 miles south of San Angelo.

The caller was never found, and investigators now suspect that the call was a hoax.

. . .

The appeals judges who ruled, Chief Justice W. Kenneth Law and Justices Robert. H. Pemberton and Alan Waldrop, all Republicans, said removing children from their homes was “an extreme measure” justifiable only in the event of urgent or immediate danger.

Instead, the court said, the state argued that the “belief system” at the ranch condoned under-age marriage and pregnancy and that the whole ranch functioned as a “household” in which sexual abuse anywhere threatened children in the entire community.

But in reality, the judges said, there was no evidence of widespread abuse, and they faulted the district judge, Barbara Walther, for approving the children’s removal based on insufficient grounds.

. . .

Jim Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University, said it was highly unusual for an appeals court to intervene in a continuing case, especially one involving child protection.

“It showed the proof was really weak, not a close call at all,” Professor Cohen said.

Tim Edwards, a lawyer in San Angelo who represents four mothers, said: “This is a wonderful day. It confirms not only my feeling, but the feeling of many, many attorneys involved in the case, that Child Protective Services failed to meet their burden of proof to justify a court order to remove more than 400 children from their homes for the last six or seven weeks.”

Mr. Edwards said even if the children went home soon, the effects were likely to linger.

“You’re talking about a situation that is traumatic to many people,” he said, “and the recovery from that trauma may be slow in coming.”

. . .

Laura Nugent, a lawyer in Austin who represents four of the children, said she was thrilled. “I feel this is the correct way to rule on the evidence,” Ms. Nugent said. “I felt all along that the department did not bear their burden of proof.”

Ms. Nugent, whose clients are 6, 10, 11 and 12, said she was unsure whether the ruling applied to all the children she represented and was awaiting details.

“They all want to go home,” she said. “They are emphatic that they want to go home and be reunited with their parents and their siblings.”

Which raises a question: everybody seems to “know” what is best for children of this age, but did anyone think to ask the children themselves? Presumably they should at least have their opinions about where and with whom they want to grow up heard.

It was not the first time a raid on polygamists may have backfired. In 1953 Arizona authorities under Gov. Howard Pyle raided the fundamentalist community of Short Creek, which is now Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, taking about 160 children into state custody.

But the custody ruling was overturned on appeal in 1955 after lawyers for the children argued that they were denied adequate legal representation. Most of the women and children then returned to Short Creek to join their husbands, who had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy to commit unlawful cohabitation and were sentenced to one year on probation. Governor Pyle lost the 1954 election.

Mohave County Judge J.W. Faulkner later said he made a legal “blunder” during the custody hearings, writing after his retirement in 1955 that the reversal “will inevitably give new life to the cause of polygamy, and prolonging the fight for another 50 years."

1 comment:

Bob Johnson said...

You lose! Soon every state in the union will pass similar legislation and the end will be near for illegal immigration.

Hiring illegal immigrants
Judges seem skeptical of sanctions law arguments
The Associated Press

PHOENIX - Federal appellate judges considering a challenge to an Arizona law prohibiting the hiring of illegal immigrants looked skeptically on arguments from business and civil rights groups that the state can't impose such restrictions.
During a hearing Thursday in San Francisco, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether a pre-existing federal law that prohibits such hirings prevents local governments from enacting their own rules.
The Arizona law prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and requires businesses to verify the work eligibility of new hires. Businesses found to be in violation face the suspension or revocation of business licenses.
The law, which has yet to lead to an enforcement case being brought to court, was upheld by a federal judge in February.
The groups challenging the law contend the new Arizona restrictions are unconstitutional because cracking down on such hirings was the sole province of the federal government.
Jonathan Weissglass, an attorney arguing on behalf of groups challenging the Arizona law, said if Arizona gets away with establishing its own requirements and penalties, it will create a chaotic and burdensome atmosphere for employers and workers nationwide.
Judge John M. Walker said he found nothing in federal law that prohibits a state from requiring that employers use E-Verify. The program lets employer check the work eligibility of employees. The judge questioned what harm would result.
Weissglass said the harm is that Arizona's law removes an employer's ability to choose to use the program. By doing so, the law violates the federal government's exclusive domain over immigration law, he said.
Judge N. Randy Smith said he could find nothing in the federal law that prevents state and local governments from making such a mandate. If Congress intended states to stay out of mandating E-Verify, or of imposing sanctions through business licenses, it would have expressly said so, Smith said.
Judge Mary Schroeder questioned whether there was inconsistency between the federal law's voluntary use of E-Verify and Arizona's requirement that employers must use it to screen new hires.
Mary O'Grady, a lawyer leading the state's defense of the law, argued that Congress wanted to create an effective verification law, not necessarily a voluntary one. But by making it voluntary, the federal government was able to test the program and proceed cautiously.
"I didn't hear anything real encouraging on our behalf," said Dave Jones, executive director of the Arizona Contractors Association, one of the groups challenging the law.
It's unknown when the Court of Appeals will rule on the case.