Immigrant Woman Abused By Government While Giving Birth

by Cara on July 17, 2008

in human rights, immigration, misogyny, parenthood, politics, pregnancy, race and racism, reproductive justice, women’s health

Juana Villegas DeLaPaz’s story is, sadly, not particularly unusual, but it is gut-wrenching and outrageous. (h/t brownfemipower)

Authorities identified Villegas DeLaPaz as an undocumented immigrant and begin deportation proceedings in such a way that violated ICE’s own procedures.  She did not pose a threat, and was in the advanced stages of pregnancy.  Then she went into labor.

Villegas DeLaPaz was arrested, incarcerated and forced to go through labor under armed guard handcuffed to by her wrist and ankle to a hospital bed. When she arrived at the hospital, the nurse asked the accompanying officer to step outside while Villegas DeLaPaz changed into her hospital gown – he refused, forcing Villegas DeLaPaz to unclothe before him. Then she was shackled on her legs whenever she went to the bathroom. The nurse asked that the shackles be removed because she wanted Villegas DeLaPaz to be able to clean up after childbirth and do other hygiene to prevent infection. Again, the attending officer refused. Her newborn was taken from her and did not receive needed breast milk for several days. She was re-jailed and denied a breast pump to express her milk. Nurses attending her were crying. She could not sleep in the jail because of the intense pain from her swollen breasts. She was not allowed to call her family so her husband could be with her for the birth.

This?  This is violence.  If you disagree, either your definition of violence is far too narrow, or like our government, you feel that violence against an undocumented woman of color simply doesn’t count.  Actions by ICE are often a form of terrorism. But we keep on turning a blind eye, and keep on tolerating or nodding along with the talking heads who argue that the “illegals” deserve it.

Latina Lista adds:

By the police department’s own admission, Villegas DeLaPaz endured more days in jail than she should have because of the 4th of July holidays.

The Berry Hill police department is not making apologies for their actions but instead are portraying themselves as compassionate because they surrendered Villegas DeLaPaz to her family instead of deporting her.

Chances are they realized that if they deported her their public image would have sunk so low that it would have been a public relations nightmare to rectify it.

However, the Berry Hill police department’s actions underscore why it is dangerous to put a federal program in the hands of local law enforcement who either may be required to fulfill quotas or show superiors “progress” in justifying the expense of paying their salaries while they were offsite receiving training.

Too many people seem to forget or attempt to erase the fact that immigration status has nothing to do with a person’s status as a human being.  It’s disgusting. There is no way to justify this treatment other than through bigotry — racist, misogynistic, nationalistic bigotry.

And we can’t discount what happened to Villegas DeLaPaz as an isolated incident, because it’s not (pdf, page 3).  Incarcerated women of all stripes are routinely shackled during labor.  The male officer’s refusal to leave the room while Villegas DeLaPas undressed is a severe violation of privacy, if not sexual assault.  It almost certainly has to be against regulations.  Because of her poor medical treatment, as required by the government and protested by the medical personnel, the physical and emotional trauma to which Villegas DeLaPaz were subjected may have extensive consequences.  Separating a woman from her newborn against her will, denying her the emotional support of her partner and disallowing the father to not witness the birth of his child is not acceptable.  It’s just not.  It ought to never be considered acceptable.  So long as it is, and so long as other abuses of power and violence by our government continues, we sure as fuck aren’t any “Land of the Free.”

Political Salsa has more; so does Women’s Health News

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{ 5 comments }

1 GallingGalla July 17, 2008 at 2:07 pm

The police raped her, plain and simple.

And there’s commenters at Latina Lista who are going on and on that she deserved this because “OMG, she broke the law!!!!”

Yeah, right, because driving without a license is FAR FAR FAR worse than state-sponsored terrorism and rape. /snark

2 Alexa July 17, 2008 at 9:31 pm

Having lived in Nashville, within which the city of Berry Hill finds itself, and having been stopped and harassed by their somewhat less than upstanding police dpeartment on two occasions, this doesn’t surprise me one iota. Every BH cop I’ve encountered reeks of misogynism. Seriously.

3 Tali July 17, 2008 at 9:44 pm

It’s funny – I’ve been reading a lot lately about human rights abuses against immigrants, a topic that certainly does not lack for horrifying, disgusting stories. But this is the first to actually make me cry. The thought of giving birth while handcuffed to the hospital bed is just sickening.

4 konstanze July 20, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Too many people seem to forget or attempt to erase the fact that immigration status has nothing to do with a person’s status as a human being.

Yes. This needs to be plastered on billboards.

5 john September 14, 2008 at 10:57 pm

This if true’ a very sick individual who needs jailed for life if this happened to this woman if or even close” humanity superceeds the badge in authority and hope only humane individuals are granted badges’ if not its a failure of the citizens to allow this .

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