"The idea of adoption is not something bad," Davenport persisted. "It's something beautiful. What you are saying by giving him up for adoption is that you know he will be in better hands and he will grow up with better opportunities. One day he will find you and say, 'Thank you mom for giving me these opportunities.' Because you can't give them to him."

On October 10, 2007, three weeks after Davenport's lobbying trip, Bail signed a plea agreement admitting guilt to a single count of aggravated identity theft in exchange for a two-year prison term.

On October 16, still in jail awaiting sentencing, Bail was served with notice (written in English) that Seth and Melinda Moser had petitioned to adopt her son.

"When they met him it was love at first sight," says Bess Lanyon, a friend of Carlos' adoptive parents. "That little boy lives a wonderful life."
"When they met him it was love at first sight," says Bess Lanyon, a friend of Carlos' adoptive parents. "That little boy lives a wonderful life."
Encarnación Bail lost custody of her son while jailed for immigration violations.
John H. Tucker
Encarnación Bail lost custody of her son while jailed for immigration violations.

Two days later a Jasper County judge held what is known as a transfer-of-custody hearing. (Records of that hearing are under seal, but subsequent court opinions contain references to the proceeding, as well as some specifics.) Bail did not attend; she had not been alerted to the hearing, nor had she retained an attorney. Carlos did have a representative in court that day: a court-appointed guardian ad litem whose legally mandated duty was to safeguard the baby's interests. The guardian ad litem, who'd been appointed only a few days earlier, told the judge that Carlos' was "an emergency situation in that nobody had the ability to care for [him]."

The judge awarded custody to the Mosers.

Court documents indicate that Bail might not have been made aware of the whereabouts and custodial status of her son. On June 13, 2008, appearing in federal court in Springfield for her formal sentencing, Bail told the judge: "[M]y child is in the custody of the government at this time."

That fall Circuit Judge David Dally presided over a hearing to decide custody once and for all.

Laura Davenport and Melinda Moser each took the stand at the October 7, 2008, court proceeding. Both testified that at the time he was placed in the Mosers' care, Carlos Bail was underweight, developmentally delayed and not current on his immunizations.

In delivering his verdict, Judge Dally expressed little sympathy for the boy's birth mother. "[Her] lifestyle, that of smuggling herself into a country illegally and committing crimes in this country, is not a lifestyle that can provide any stability for a child," he stated. "A child cannot be educated in this way, always in hiding or on the run." He predicted that Bail "would be unable to provide adequate food, clothing or shelter to [Carlos] in her physical custody in the future."

With that, Dally terminated Bail's parental rights and approved the Mosers' application for adoption.

The hearing lasted 106 minutes. The following weekend Carlos Jamison Moser celebrated his second birthday with his new parents.

On road maps of the state of Missouri, the town of Carthage registers as a dot fifteen miles northeast of Joplin. But if there were a map that charted the annals of the U.S. Civil War, Carthage would be denoted by a star.

On July 5, 1861, as Missouri governor Claiborne Jackson — a secessionist sympathizer who also happened to be the head of the state's militia — was retreating south from Jefferson City toward Confederate territory, a group of German volunteers from St. Louis cut him off at Carthage and engaged him in a daylong gunfight. Neither side admitted defeat, but owing to exploits such as this, St. Louis' ragtag contingent of German volunteers would later be credited with saving Missouri for the Union.

Though it was burned to the ground during the war, Carthage was rebuilt in the space of three years and became known far and wide for the elegant Victorian houses commissioned by lead and zinc mining tycoons based in Joplin. In 1895 Jasper County's majestic courthouse, which featured locally quarried limestone, was erected smack in the middle of the town square. A Romanesque wonder, the edifice now does double duty as a repository for Carthage's historic artifacts, including Civil War memorabilia, massive bronzed cannons and a wrought-iron elevator operated by a silver-haired man named Larry who has a habit of whistling and jingling the keys in his pocket.

But there's a less genteel side to Carthage these days, as well. In the neighborhoods north and east of the courthouse, out of sight of the old-money establishment, residents are darker-skinned and speak a foreign language. Since 2000, the city's Latino community has nearly doubled in size, to the point where Hispanics now comprise 25 percent of Carthage's population. Most are from Guatemala; many hail from the same village. A large number entered the U.S. without authorization and now toil in the region's many factories and poultry plants.

The cultural divide is impossible to overlook, but no one here knows how best to address it.

"The topics of many city meetings are about how to integrate the two communities," says John Hacker, managing editor of the town's daily newspaper, the Carthage Press. "But there are people on the Anglo side who inevitably say that a lot of the Hispanics are illegals who need to learn English — and that's when the conversation just stops."

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