exposing the dark side of adoption
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Akron Beacon Journal (OH)


Author: Delano Massey, Beacon Journal staff writer

Owen Orantes-Cruz, 3, wrinkled his brow, then shot a stern glare at his 5-year-old brother Alejandro.

"Move over," Owen barked, as he waited for Alejandro, who had awkwardly stretched his tiny body across their mother's lap.

It had been hours since Sandra Orantes-Cruz, 31, had come home, but years that she had been away.

Her three boys -- Nino, 10, Alejandro and Owen -- had been staying with her sister, Morena Sweitzer of Akron.

Owen was about 11 months old when his mother was incarcerated.

"This is how it's been all day," Orantes-Cruz said, revealing a small smile. Then she paused as she watched Owen talk about his new toy.

"It's hard," she said, gazing at him. "He was a baby, now he has a little mouth. This is what's important. It makes you refocus."

Months ago, Sandra Orantes-Cruz was trying to grasp the harsh reality of being deported to El Salvador.

That changed last week when the Board of Immigration Appeals lifted the deportation order.

But Orantes-Cruz didn't get sent home, and the Medina woman said Thursday she was starting to give up hope that she would be able to stay in this country.

Hours earlier she found out she'd be leaving the Seneca County Jail in Tiffin -- the place she'd been since the deportation process began.

Orantes-Cruz's life began to change after a drunken brawl left a former boyfriend with a cut on his finger in 2002. She was convicted of felonious assault and kidnapping and was sentenced to serve three years in prison.

She had completed her three-year prison sentence and was looking forward to release when she was told she would be deported to El Salvador, the country she left at age 6 when she was adopted by a Twinsburg couple. Orantes-Cruz never filed for citizenship -- she was one of many foreign-born adoptees to learn that adoption didn't automatically translate to citizenship.

Then, in an unusual turn of events in October, Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Collier rescinded her three-year prison sentence and resentenced her to 360 days of probation, a punishment not requiring deportation. It was a move prompted by a motion filed by Cleveland attorney James Chin.

The filing came after reports surfaced about a difficult past that included two abusive relationships and a report that she had been diagnosed with battered woman syndrome.

Prosecutors didn't fight the motion and said Orantes-Cruz probably would have received a lesser sentence had that information been known.

The change removed Orantes-Cruz from the category of automatic deportation, and Chin filed motions immediately afterward seeking to overturn the deportation order.

Thursday, Orantes-Cruz sat on the couch in her sister's living room, reflecting on how being home made her cherish the little things.

That evening, Orantes-Cruz went to dinner with family and friends at Ryan's, where she had "real food" and "real silverware." She had a salad, ribs and chicken -- items she had been craving.

Orantes-Cruz hugged and kissed her sons -- something she had been longing to do. They also cried together.

"I had a life before, but it didn't feel like it," she said. "Now I can walk outside if I feel like it; I don't have to ask nobody. I can stay up as long as I want. I can eat. I can hold my babies."

But aside from being with her sons, she's not sure what she'll do. She said she'll stay with her sister for a while and she'll probably start going to church.

"This is such a miracle," she said. "I have to praise God. I have to do something."


Sandra Orantes-Cruz, 31, hugs her sons, Alejandro Orantes-Cruz, 5, and John Denton (whom she calls Nino), 10, at her sister's home after her release from jail Thursday. The family plans to stay at Orantes-Cruz's sister's house for the time being.


Delano Massey can be reached at 330-996-3640 or dmassey@thebeaconjournal.com

2005 Dec 16