She had gone through labor with a sheriff’s officer standing guard in her hospital room, where one of her feet was cuffed to the bed most of the time...The phone in her room was turned off, and she was not permitted to speak with her husband when he came to retrieve their newborn son from the hospital
Human Rights Organizations have condemned the tactics of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including the raids by ICE, the discriminatory enforcement by local officials and the conditions of detainment amongst other human rights violations. One especially ugly aspect of ICE’s war on immigrants is a program called 287g which promotes local enforcement of immigration by law enforcement officials who are neither trained nor equipped to enforce Federal laws. Worse, many of these local officials often exhibit anti-Latino bias which leads to profiling and harassment of the Hispanic community. One such egregious example of local enforcement run amok, but not in any way isolated, was reported in the New York Times.
It started when Juana Villegas, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who was nine months pregnant, was pulled over by a police officer in a Nashville suburb for a routine traffic violation.
By the time Mrs. Villegas was released from the county jail six days later, she had gone through labor with a sheriff’s officer standing guard in her hospital room, where one of her feet was cuffed to the bed most of the time. County officers barred her from seeing or speaking with her husband.
After she was discharged from the hospital, Mrs. Villegas was separated from her nursing infant for two days and barred from taking a breast pump into the jail, her lawyer and a doctor familiar with the case said. Her breasts became infected, and the newborn boy developed jaundice, they said.
Mrs. Villegas’s arrest has focused new attention on a cooperation agreement signed in April 2007 between federal immigration authorities and Davidson County, which shares a consolidated government with Nashville, that gave immigration enforcement powers to county officers. It is one of 57 agreements, known formally as 287G, that the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has signed in the last two years with county and local police departments across the country under a rapidly expanding program.
Lawyers and immigrant advocates say Mrs. Villegas’s case shows how local police can exceed their authority when they seek to act on immigration laws they are not fully trained to enforce.
“Had it not been for the 287G program, she would not have been taken down to jail,” said A. Gregory Ramos, a lawyer who is a former president of the Nashville Bar Association. “It was sold as something to make the community safer by taking dangerous criminals off the streets. But it has been operated so broadly that we are getting pregnant women arrested for simple driving offenses, and we’re not getting rid of the robbers and gang members.”
She was stopped on July 3 in her husband’s pickup truck by a police officer from Berry Hill, a Nashville suburb, initially for “careless driving.” After Mrs. Villegas told the officer she did not have a license, he did not issue a ticket but arrested her instead. Elliott Ozment, Mrs. Villegas’s lawyer, said driving without a license is a misdemeanor in Tennessee that police officers generally handle with a citation, not an arrest.
So when Mrs. Villegas went into labor on the night of July 5, she was handcuffed and accompanied by a deputy as she was taken by ambulance to Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. Cuffs chaining her foot to the hospital bed were opened when she reached the final stages of labor, Mrs. Villegas said.
The phone in her room was turned off, and she was not permitted to speak with her husband when he came to retrieve their newborn son from the hospital on July 7 as she returned to jail, she said.
As Mrs. Villegas left the hospital, a nurse offered her a breast pump but a sheriff’s deputy said she could not take it into the jail, Mrs. Villegas said.
Such treatment of non-criminal immigrants is unfortunately all too common under ICE’s war of attrition against undocumented immigrants. I can hear the nativists trolls scream “but she was here illegally!” Whether she was here illegally or not, such treatment is not only undeserved but its wide-scale application demeans our society and the values for which this Republic stands. We continue to fritter away any moral basis for criticizing the human rights violations of other countries. We have reduced our values to the lowest common denominator, the racists who rant on about “illegals” who “have no rights.” Who is next?