Saturday, July 12, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: More disturbing revelations emerge in case of arrested expectant mother then separated from newborn by 287g deportation program

More disturbing revelations have emerged concerning the arrest and incarceration of a pregnant Nashville woman three days from delivery and her treatment by legal authorities during and after she gave birth.

The revelations -- which begin with Ms. DeLaPaz's arrest on July 3 -- come from an interview yesterday of Juana Villegas DeLaPaz and her family by local Nashville attorney Elliot Ozment. I can vouch for his credibility from his association as a legal representative with other cases of misreatment under the Davidson County's 287 deportation program and ICE raids across the state. The 287g program was brought here 14 months ago by Sheriff Daron Hall and without the objection of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, whose district covers most of Davidson County.

Ms. DeLaPaz's story has exploded over the local and national blogosphere.

Here are excepts of the statement she gave to her attorney:

� Ms. DeLaPaz was pulled over by Berry Hill PD, Sgt. Timothy Ray Coleman, to be precise. This was on 7/3/08 at 12:40 PM. The ticket issued said "Careless driving", but no other details were available. Poor Juana still to this day doesn't understand what she did wrong. I interviewed the couple's 14-year-old son who was in the car, and he said the policeman never specified what the woman did that was wrong.

She has a court appearance at the Berry Hill Municipal Court (698 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN 37204) on Aug 15, 2008 at 2:30 PM.

The younger policeman who issued a ticket to the vehicle immediately in front of Juana's car approached Juana's car when he was finished with the other vehicle and started up a conversation with the boy. He apologized and said he would never arrest a pregnant lady such as this. This didn't stop Sgt. Coleman -- he made pregnant Juana wait in a hot car for an hour. When the other driver arrived, Coleman then told Juana that she didn't get out of the car into his police vehicle in two seconds he would put her in handcuffs. She told Coleman that she was supposed to deliver in three days, but it made no difference.

� During her ICE(Immigration and Customs Enforcement) screening interview at the Davidson County Jail, Juana again told the intake interviewer that she was to deliver in three days.

�It was determined by ICE that she had been previously removed (in deportation proceedings a decade ago) and was kept in jail on the charge of driving without a license along with an ICE detainer, thus preventing her from getting out on bail on the state charge.

� On 7/5/08, her "water broke" at approximately10 p.m and she was taken by ambulance to General Hospital about an hour later. She gave birth on 7/6/08 at 1:03 a.m. She received excellent and compassionate care at Nashville General.

During her stay there, the guard (I believe it to have been sheriff's personnel -- wore a "green uniform") disconnected the phone so that she could make no outgoing calls. She did not see her husband the entire time she was there. She was ankle-cuffed to the bed at all times (except when she was released to take a bathroom break).

On the first hour after admission, her right hand and left ankle were cuffed to the bed. After the baby delivered, she spent the rest of the day uncuffed. That night, her ankle cuff was reattached and stayed for the duration. When she had to go to the bathroom for personal hygeine as directed by the nurse, she shuffled to the bathroom with both feet shackled to each other.

When the nurse requested the cuffs be removed to enable a better job of self-administering personal hygeine, the guard refused. The nurse became upset, but the guard callously said, "I'm just doing my job". She was discharged on 7/8 at 4 p.m.

The nurse gave her a breast pump, but the sheriff's guard refused to let her use it or take it with her from the hospital.

� Ms. DeLaPaz was returned to jail. She was released at 3 a.m. Thursday -- ending eight days of shocking treatment.

These revelations are deeply distrurbing. They should move each of us to get involved and demand a response from the sheriff's office and Berry Hill's police department. As of this writing, I have received no electronic mail response from both parties, nor from Rep. Cooper's office. The Nashville Democrat has yet to object to the program in Davidson County despite a long series of reports of mistreatment of immigrants and their families.

The program was sold to Davidson County residents two years ago as a way to remove dangerous criminals from the undocumented population of immigrants and their families here. A subsequent investigation by The Tennessean newspaper, however, revealed that the great majority of deportations were of people with no criminal record, let alone one of felonies and violence. Families here have been devastated.

Despite this record of promising one thing and then doing another, 287g remains in Nashville and 54 other communities across the country after approval of applications by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With the support of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, the state of North Carolina will institute a statewide 287g program. Dole's Democratic challenger also approves of the program.

The state of Tennessee -- as do many other states -- does not allow undocumented immigrants to have driver's licenses, repealing approval earlier this decade. This matter cropped up in the Democratic primary presidential race. Future nominee Barack Obama maintained his support of giving licenses to qualifying immigrants who pass written and actual driving tests and secure private auto insurance. Sen. Hillary Clinton came out against such a proposal for New York State.

Such ID with picture is necessary for police to determine -- with any arrest for any offense -- if the alleged offender will show up for his or her court hearing. If the arresting officer cannot be convinced of that, he or she then will arrest the person and take them to be booked and incarcerated until a court can initiate proceedings.

Metro Police Chief Serpas has given his officers discretion in determining their belief in a person's ability to appear at a court hearing. If a driver's license is not available, he has allowed other documents to prove residence and reliability here. However, he does require a ticket be written for anyone driving who does not possess a license. Of course, that is what the law requires.

In combinations, such needed documents for Metro Police include a car registration and Matricula card issue by the government of Mexico. Ms. DeLaPaz reportedly had both. But Berry Hill's police department apparently has its own standards for proof of residence and reliability, or in this matter, two different policeman disagreed over whether Ms. DeLaPaz should have been arrested in the first place.

Advocates for the Hispanic community claim that 287g has resulted in racial profiling of Hispanic drivers by legal authorites. They can be stopped for simply "driving while Mexican" or any other nationality.

Here, with Ms. DeLaPaz's shocking treatment because of 287g, Lt. Don Aaron of the Metro Police Department issued a statement on Thursday stating that the department's officers were not involved in this incident with Ms. DeLaPaz, her three children and subsequent treatment revolving her incarceration and hospitalization.

Out of fairness, when the sheriff's, Rep. Cooper's and the Berry Hill Police offices release a public statement, I'll publish them to accompany the following record of this shocking treatment of an expecting mother and her separation from her newborn

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