Though most townspeople will tell you the two communities coexist peacefully, some aren't so sure.

"It's as bad as the civil-rights movement, if not worse," opines one resident, who asks that his name not be published. "Blacks got more respect and dignity than the Spanish do here. And these immigrants are such good people. They just have no knowledge of Western civilization. And the white people treat them like fucking garbage."

Then there are those who see it the other way around — a contingent that isn't limited to Anglos. "Our people are very unfair," contends Francisco Bonilla, leader of the flock at the Iglesia Cristiana Hispanoamericana, the evangelical church where the Velazcos are members. "They take advantage of the whites. I point the finger at them because they're wrong to be here illegally. They're wrong to abuse their kids. They're wrong to drink alcohol and drive without a license."

"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.

Bonilla says that while he does not forbid undocumented immigrants to worship with his congregation, "I don't welcome them. We're not about friendship."

Seth and Melinda Moser acknowledge Carthage's ethnic tensions. Though they declined to be interviewed for this story, their attorney, Joe Hensley, says the couple sought to adopt a Latino baby, because they perceived that need in Carthage.

"Melinda and Seth are wonderful parents," affirms a friend, Bess Lanyon. "They're deeply loving people, which explains why they came to adopt Carlos in the first place."

There was another factor in play: Melinda Moser is an adoptee herself.

"She has always been so thankful for the loving home her parents gave her," says Lanyon, daughter of the pastor who heads the church the Mosers attend. "And she talked about extending that love and making a home for someone else."


On your own computer monitor, you can pull up an image of Jamison Moser, clad in a gray sweatshirt, sporting a spiky mop of thick black hair and his birth mother's big dark eyes, smiling out toward some unspecified source of amusement or affection.

He seems happy.

Melinda Moser's brother created this website, "In the Interest of Jamison," to solicit donations to cover legal expenses and provide their perspective on an adoption case the family's supporters contend has been distorted by the media.

After Judge Dally approved the Mosers' adoption petition, Encarnación Bail complained to prison officials in West Virginia, who contacted the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington.

"They called the embassy to let us know about a Guatemalan woman who seemed to be desperate about a situation," recounts Ambassador Francisco Villagrán de León, who would subsequently meet with Bail on at least two occasions and champion her cause.

"It was very, very distressing to learn about a case like this," adds Villagrán de León, who stepped down from his post in July after heading Guatemala's delegation to the U.S. for three years. "It just seemed like an incredible injustice, and that's why we thought we had to extend support and offer the best legal protection we could."

The embassy mustered a crew of U.S.-based immigration lawyers to pitch in during Bail's appeal. Attorneys from Seattle and Miami offered to represent her pro bono, while lawyers from St. Louis and Chicago pledged additional support.

Around that time, on April 23, 2009, the New York Times published a 1,200-word article about Bail's case. The piece, written by correspondent Ginger Thompson, was published in the paper's "National" section. Shortly before the article appeared, Linda Davenport wrote a letter to the superintendent of Carthage's school district complaining that Thompson's questions contained "implied accusations and threats" and were "bordering on harassment." Davenport's supervisor, Lynda Homa, testified at a school-board hearing months later that "we would not even be here — I don't believe — at this time if the New York Times reporter had not come to Carthage. Because when the New York Times reporter came to Carthage, this is when all of this took place."

And in St. Louis this past November, the Post-Dispatch editorial board didn't mince words: "Missouri Supreme Court must reunite child with immigrant mother," blared a headline in the state's largest daily newspaper.

Bail's legal team gathered a pile of evidence to support their claim that the adoption proceeding was a sham. In laying out their argument to the appeals court's three-judge panel, Bail's attorneys cited fourteen instances in which the adoption process failed to comply with Missouri statutes.

In overturning the adoption, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District focused on only one of the Bail team's contentions: that under Missouri law, Jennifer and Oswaldo Velazco had no authority to "place" Baby Carlos in the Mosers' custody — or, for that matter, anyone else's.

"Mother raises fourteen points on appeal, including a claim of error that the trial court granted the adoption without the statutorily-mandated placement requirements governing private adoption, pursuant to section 453.014 [of the Missouri Revised Statutes]," wrote the court. "This argument is dispositive of the entire appeal and we address Mother's other points only as assistance in discussing the first point."

In other words, the adoption process had gone off the rails before it had even begun.

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