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.