Court Rules Baby Desirai Must Be Returned To Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma County judge has ruled "Baby Desirai" must be returned to Oklahoma.
The Baby Desirai case mirrors the "Baby Veronica" custody battle, between her South Carolina adoptive parents and her biological father, an Oklahoma native.
Both girls have Native American roots and their fathers say they didn't know the mothers were planning to put their daughters up for adoption.
Desirai was born in May. Her mother is Absentee-Shawnee, a federally recognized tribe based in Pottawatomie County.
Desirai's mother and her father, Jeremy Simmons, ended their relationship before Desirai was born. Simmons said it wasn't until months later that he found his baby had been placed for adoption.
"I was mad, sad, upset. I didn't know why or how somebody could hand over their baby like that," Simmons said.
Charles Tripp represents the Absentee-Shawnee tribe in this case. He said a South Carolina couple filed for Desirai's adoption in Oklahoma County, but took the baby before the adoption was finalized.
"The parties out of South Carolina did not have a court order, guardianship order, or anything to remove the child from this state," Tripp said.
After nearly four months of fighting for Desirai's return, an Oklahoma County judge granted the tribe custodial rights.
"Throughout history, there's been an effort to make Indian people lose their culture and basically do away with Indian tribes. This is our way of maintaining our culture, maintaining our spiritual ways, our languages, those things," Tripp said.
Tripp said, even though Simmons is not Native American, he still has rights over his baby through the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was designed to protect native families.
"We have to continue to fight for our children. They're not a piece of property to be sold or to be bought or to be traded. They are children of our tribe and we care about them," Tripp said.
That's the same argument Dusten Brown used in the "Baby Veronica" case, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it didn't apply, saying he had abandoned the child in utero and refused to support the birth mother.
Tripp said they are waiting on orders from a South Carolina judge before they can pick up Baby Desirai and bring her back to Oklahoma. The tribe supports Desirai's father in his fight for custody, since he did not sign his rights away for his daughter.