Attorneys for an illegal immigrant who was shackled during labor and gave birth in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office have filed a motion in U.S. District Court to compel Metro government to produce documents related to her incarceration under the 287(g) program.
Juana Villegas De La Paz was pulled over in Berry Hill in July 2008 for careless driving — a charge that was later dropped. After what Villegas’ attorneys say was a two-hour stop for a minor traffic offense, Officer Tim Coleman arrested the woman, who was nine-months pregnant at the time, for failing to have proper identification under the auspices of the 287(g) program.
The incident drew national media attention, but in a motion filed Wednesday in district court, Villegas attorneys John Farringer, William Harbison and Phillip Cramer of Sherrard & Roe, as well as immigration lawyer Elliot Ozment, gave a more detailed and wrenching account of Villegas’ ordeal.
Her attorneys say that during her arrest by Coleman, Villegas was told she had “20 seconds to kiss her kids good-bye as she would not be seeing them again.”
Villegas was then taken to the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Nashville to be processed under 287(g), an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement under which the Sheriff’s Office checks the immigration status of prisoners accused of serious crimes for possible deportation.
DCSO officers reportedly determined she had been previously deported in 1996 and ICE placed a federal ‘detainer’ on Villegas, preventing her from posting bond.
After two days in jail, she went into labor in her cell and was shackled and transported to Metro General Hospital, the filing says. Upon arrival, Villegas’ attorneys allege she remained shackled at the hospital and “was not provided any privacy to change into a hospital gown…despite requests by nurses” and was not allowed to notify the father.
Ignoring the pleas of her nurses, as well as the order of the attending doctor, DCSO officers insisted that her right hand and left foot remain shackled to the hospital bed, the motion says.
Villegas’ attorneys do claim, however, that at least one DCSO officer unshackled Villegas during his shift and stood outside the door. But after she’d given birth to her son, Villegas was again shackled and wasn’t allowed to “walk around, loosen her muscles, take care of necessary post childbirth hygiene, and otherwise recover from her labor and delivery,” according to the filing.
Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Karla Weikal and Ozment both declined to comment, citing the ongoing nature of the suit.
Attorneys for Metro Nashville did not respond to requests for comment as of late Thursday.
Villegas has brought claims against Metro, ICE, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and individual, unnamed DCSO officers for violating her due process, for cruel and unusual punishment and “deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.”
Her attorneys also claim Metro Government hasn’t responded to discovery.
Before the new mother left Metro General, a nurse reportedly provided Villegas with a breast pump and moisturizers to allow her to express breast milk while she was separated from her newborn. Yet the motion claims a Sheriff’s deputy refused to allow her to use them.
“Because Ms. Villegas was not allowed to take the breast pump with her to the detention center, her breasts became swollen,” the filing says.
As a result, she suffered from excruciating pain that made moving agonizing and sleep nearly impossible, her attorneys contend, adding that she developed mastitis — an infection of the breast tissue caused by an inability to express breast milk.