Giving Birth in Shackles

One of the hot button issues in the US is the number of people who enter the US from Mexico illegally. This is especially true in those states that border on Mexico: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. But it is not US immigration policy that I wish to highlight in this post. It is the treatment of some of those illegals.

In certain areas, the prejudices against some of these people results in them being treated in a way that would disgust any decent human being.

Back in 2008, Juana Villegas was pulled over in Nashville for a traffic violation. When the officer found that she did not have a valid drivers license, a further check was made and it was discovered that she was in the US illegally. She was also 8 ½ months pregnant. I am not cognisant of US law, but there is a jurisdictional conflict between the Federal U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement. So, against the federal policy, when her water broke, she was shackled to a gurney and transferred from the prison to the hospital.

Throughout her ordeal she begged officers to release the shackles, but they ignored her pleas, also refusing to let her contact her husband or see her newborn child for three days.

Describing the horrendous way she was forced to give birth, she said: ‘When I was in bed, I was begging the sheriff. Please let me free – at least one hand, and he said, no, he didn’t want to.’

Three days after giving birth she was taken back to Davidson County Sheriff’s jail, where she was denied access to a breast pump and given the wrong type of painkillers by medical staff.

She said: ‘I delivered on Sunday and spent three days at the hospital. My husband wasn’t at the delivery, I was completely alone.

‘They kept me without any communication. They would disconnect the phone each time they moved me.

‘I didn’t know where the baby was, they didn’t let me see my husband. I didn’t know if he had the baby. They didn’t even let me make a phone call.’

This is not about illegal immigration, this is about human decency. She is not the only one.

Like Villegas, Alma Chacon, and Miriam Mendiola-Martinez gave birth in the United States shackled to their hospital beds, without their husbands, and in the presence of a prison guard. They also were not violent criminals, but rather, they were all undocumented and charged with an immigration-related offense in Sheriff Arpaio’s jurisdiction of Maricopa County, Arizona.

I’ve mentioned Arpaio before with his ridiculous stance on law enforcement and his prejudicial attitudes towards Latinos. The US has Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the highest prison population in the world, the only death penalty in the Western world, and non-violent women shackled to their beds while they give birth.

Whatever claim they ever had to being a leader in human rights is long gone, and people like Arpaio are the worst of the bunch.

The only positive aspect of this is that Villegas was just awarded $200,000. Whether or not it changes anything for other women remains to be seen.

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2 Responses to Giving Birth in Shackles

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