One Last Things about Juana Villegas DeLaPaz

I see that the understanding about this story has boiled down on both sides to “Juana Villegas DeLaPaz was treated inhumanely while she was in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff: True or False?” with both sides then weighing in on whether what happened to her was extraordinary.

I want to reiterate–though it may be shouting into the wind–that nothing unusual happened to Villegas. Women who give birth while in custody give birth under circumstances very similar to how Villegas was forced to give birth.

Women in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff who give birth, give birth like that. That is a problem, I believe, but that is a slightly different problem from the Villegas situation.  We should not let ourselves get distracted by that (though, I believe, it is the point of some people to distract us by that).

The problem with the Villegas situation is this: Every law enforcement officer in town knows what I know–that women who give birth while in the Sheriff’s custody give birth shackled to a bed, without the presence of any family members, and then have their baby taken away from them.

Every law enforcement officer in town also knows how 287(g) works–that a person has to be arrested and enter the jail in order for the Sheriff’s department to run her name through the ICE database. Tim Coleman did not know (or should not have known) that Juana Villegas DeLaPaz had a previous deportation order when he was deciding whether to give her a ticket or to arrest her. Let us not be mistaken about that. That information is supposed to be available only to the Sheriff’s department after a person has been arrested, not to an officer on the street making a decision about whether or not to arrest someone.

The Sheriff’s department has been trained by ICE and works closely with ICE on immigration matters.

Police officers on the street have not been trained and do not work with ICE.

Arresting officers are not supposed to be working as untrained immigration enforcers.

Officers are not supposed to be arresting people they think are likely to be in ICE’s database for the sole purpose of getting their name run against ICE’s database.

The reason, I believe–and again, I speak only for myself, but based on what I’ve read and conversations I’ve had–that local activists are upset is that when Officer Coleman was faced with a pregnant woman who had, at best, committed a misdemeanor ticketable offense, he did not do what most officers in his situation do–ticket her, make sure she did not leave him still driving without a license, and get on with his day.

Instead, he arrested her.

It was within his discretion to arrest her–that’s why the Berry Hill police department can say he did nothing wrong–but it’s very, very weird that he arrested her, especially because HE HAD TO AT LEAST SUSPECT THAT ARRESTING HER WOULD LEAD TO HER GIVING BIRTH WHILE IN JAIL.

When he decided to arrest her, he was deciding that she would give birth in jail, and he, being a smart dude familiar with how the jail works, knew that she would end up giving birth shackled to a bed, alone, with her baby ripped from her.

Now, if you ask any police officer in town if they think that being shackled to a bed without your family around you while you go through one of the most scary, painful ordeals a woman goes through is a proper consequence of driving without a license, he’s going to say no.

So, why, when faced with a pregnant woman, about to give birth, who had committed an offense that only warranted a ticket, did Coleman arrest her?

She wasn’t a flight risk. She clearly has ties to the community.

It seems to me obvious that he arrested her SO THAT she would be checked against the ICE database and deported.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a flagrant violation of the job of a police officer, but it’s pretty shocking once you start to think about it.

It’s not his job to run around finding excuses to pull over Hispanics and arrest them so that they’ll get kicked into the 287(g) program.

It’s his job to enforce the laws he knows are being violated.

It’s not his job to decide who gets to be here and who does not.


17 thoughts on “One Last Things about Juana Villegas DeLaPaz

  1. I meant to ask this before and got sidetracked.

    Are other prisoners, specifically MALE prisoners, also shackled to their beds, when they are taken to the hospital?

  2. Where do you get that the child was ripped from his mother’s arms? The child spent 40 of 60 hours at the hospital with his mother (a decision solely in the hands of the mother and the hospital), they were separated a total of 34 hours – not ideal, but they were reunited as soon as she went to court on her local charges. Yes, male inmates who have local charges and a federal hold and taken to the hospital are treated similarly. There wasn’t an officer present (or standing over her as some have surmised) when she delivered, she wasn’t restrained while using the restroom, restraints were never used on her hands, although restraints (one on one leg) were used six hours after delivery, her movement was not restricted in the bed – prior to delivery or after. Her foot was not “shackled to the side of the bed. Police officers on the street have no access to the ICE information – all that is done behind the jail walls. Checks can’t be made by a phone call and the officers who arrest never enter the area where the ICE checks are run. This was not an ideal situation for the sheriff’s office and would have preferred for her NOT to be jailed. ICE officers immediately started her paperwork for her to be released on her own recognizance when she came into jail. She had to go to court (the sheriff’s office does not decide who comes into jail – they don’t arrest in Nashville – and the courts decide who is released). She came into jail on the 3rd, was scheduled to go to court the next day, but there was no court because of the holiday on the 4th, she went into labor while in the sheriff’ office custody on the 5th, came back to jail from the hospital on the 8th (because she still hadn’t been to court), went to court on the 9th and was released a few hours later.

  3. Are other prisoners, specifically MALE prisoners, also shackled to their beds, when they are taken to the hospital?

    Probably so. The appropriateness of such action (regardless of the gender of the prisoner) really ought to be determined by the medical procedure being performed (ie. what is the risk of a prisoner escaping during the procedure, do the restraints make the treatment less effective or safe, etc.).

  4. Sheriff’s office deputies do consult with medical personnel regarding use of restraints.

  5. Yes, meroberts, that’s why reading and comprehending what one reads is so crucial. If you actually read the post you’re commenting on, you’ll see that I do indeed say that how Villegas was treated was standard for how prisoners who are giving birth are treated. You’ll also note that I say that police officers on the street do not have access to ICE information.

    But let’s not gloss over the truth. First, she was separated from her baby and she was denied a breast pump and that did result in her breasts becoming infected. The fact that that’s standard treatment for women in jail doesn’t make it okay and doesn’t make it not “ripping a baby from its mother’s arms.”

    Let us also not gloss over the truth that ever police officer in town knows that people are run through ICE’s database when they are jailed and so, therefore, if you want a person run through the ICE database, you have to arrest them.

    Which you know, because you say as much in your comment, which means you also know that SOMETHING about Villegas caused the arresting officer to treat her differently than most pregnant women in her situation are treated. Gee, I wonder what that could have been.

  6. Basically, what I”m reading from meroberts is that this is all America’s fault. If July 4 wasn’t a holiday when courts were closed she could have had her day in court and been home again by the time she went into labor on the 5th.

  7. I can’t assume what the officer’s intent was just like you can’t assume that – just based on what her attorney representing her said – that she got a breast infection when she wasn’t able to nurse for 34 hours and that her child was jaundice because of that. My child had jaundice and he was breast fed. I think if you would ask around, that is true of many newborns, breast fed or not (because believe it or not – not all woman choose to breast feed). People who are in jail are separated from their babies EVERYDAY. I didn’t hear an outcry from you or anyone else when the woman who gave birth three days after Ms. Villegas had to give her baby up. Whether you like it or not, driving without a driver license and without insurance is against the law in the state of TN. And he didn’t decide whether or not Ms. Villegas would stay or go, federal officials did. Ms. Villegas made that easier with the fact that she had already been deported out of San Diego in 1996. Now she is in violation of federal immigration laws – not just local driving laws.

  8. Aunt B is assuming that her breast became infected because that is what the attorney said (the one who wants to file a lawsuit). I haven’t talked to her doctor, so I wouldn’t know, but maybe Aunt B has.

    It is so amazing how some are so gullible and willing to believe what they want to believe when it furthers their cause.

  9. It is so amazing how some are so gullible and willing to believe what they want to believe when it furthers their cause.

    Equally amazing how some refuse to believe anything they don’t want to believe when it furthers their cause.

    It’s not gullible to glean the facts from those directly involved in the situation. If it is, then anyone here who was not actively involved in the arrest, detainment, and release of Ms. Villegas is gullible for having any opinion at all on the matter.

  10. Oh come on, meroberts! If you’re going to go to enough trouble to post here, take the extra two seconds to read and think through what you’re saying. First, is the fact that her breasts became infected because she couldn’t nurse in dispute now? I haven’t heard anybody claim that her doctor was lying about that. Second, it is a sad fact of life that people, even me, can only focus on the shit they know about and will tend to focus on the shit that hits them closer to home.

    Do I think that how we treat incarcerated women is bullshit? YES I DO. But I am not making the plight of incarcerated women a focal point of my writing. If it happens that I become invested in the plight of incarcerated women for some reason, then I will. But until then, the fact that I don’t mention every single woman or even most of the women who get mistreated by the justice system doesn’t mean that their suffering is not important NOR DOES IT MEAN THAT MY POINTS AREN’T LEGITIMATE.

    I mean, please, so what? I have to care about everyone equally before you’ll take any of my points seriously? Well, go ahead and stop reading right now, because that’s never going to happen.

    So, victory is yours. And it’s only 5:20. You still have plenty of time left in the day to drive down Nolensville Road taunting all the kids who have to live in fear of having their parents stripped from them. That should be good fun for you.

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  12. I just got a GOTV call from Coleman. I saw red so fast when he repeated his name that when asked if he could count on my vote, all I could do is blurt out, “Not after what you did in Berry Hill,” and hang up.

  13. She is a felon, having re-entered the U.S. following a previous deportation in 1996. Felons get held, until they can be brought before a judge, to determine bond conditions. The restraint was not out of the ordinary for someone facing a felony charge. She had a choice after her last deportation, stay in her home country, with her children or return illegally. All choices have consiquences. Her choice turned out to be a bad one. The same thing would have happened whether the person was male, female, white black or brown, Hispanic, Chinese, Italian or Irish. This is utter nonsense!

  14. JAM, seriously, at this point, you’re just being an illiterate asshole. I’ve asked you twice to let this thread die. What the fuck is your problem?

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