Saturday, July 12, 2008
Thanks to NewsChannel 5 for showing wrongs to Nashville mother and her newborn
NewsChannel 5 tonight became the first, big-name media outlet in Middle Tennessee to feature the story of Juana Villegas DeLaPaz and the horrors she experienced at the hands of local authorities in her arrest and incarceration under Metro Nashville's 287 deportation program.
Reporter Brent Frazier did a good job in bringing this situation to the attention of Midstate viewers. His fairness is appreciated. NewsChannel 5 has made a special outreach to the Hispanic community through the work of reporter Phil Jones. And the CBS affiliate finally got a comment out of the Davidson County sheriff's department over the mistreatment of Mrs. Villegas DeLaPaz, who was detained and incarcerated beginning three days before she was expected to give birth to her fourth child.
Every mother in Middle Tennessee knows the difficulty in giving birth. Now multiply the pain and discomfort by being handcuffed by your wrist and ankle to a hospital bed through hours of labor. And you are not allowed to call your husband or family to tell them to come and be with you.
Then consider being shackled at your feet when you try and go to bathroom to simply clean yourself after all the mess of childbirth. This hygiene is necessary to prevent infection and more pain.
Finally, imagine the mental and physical pain of having your newborn taken from you, before you have the all the necessary time to breast feed your child to ensure he or she receives all the early nutrients to build a body's immune system to full capacity. The sheriff department officer overseeing your every move -- and wanting to return you to your jail cell -- prevents your nurse from giving you a breast pump to drain your milk.
Nurses caring for Mrs. Villegas DeLaPaz were reduced to tears.
So you are returned to your jail cell with your breasts swollen and hurting, the pain preventing you from sleeping after one of life's most draining ordeals.
While on one hand, the sheriff's department tonight defended itself to NewsChannel 5 by saying it followed procedure and the law in the terrible treatment of Mrs. Villages DeLaPaz, its spokesperson then noted that it let her go after seven days of illegal holding when it should have deported her.
Why do her a favor when it forced her to go through almost all of her time in labor handcuffed by her wrist and ankle to her hospital bed? Because Sheriff Daron Hall and his department realizes it went way beyond any sense of decency and legality in what it did to this woman. And they have now put taxpayers liable to significant civil damages during a budget year that already forced painful cuts in Metro Nashville services.
Meanwhile, the Berry Hill Police Department, told NewsChannel 5 that its officer acted properly in forcing a very pregnant Mrs. Villegas DeLaPaz to sit for an hour in an automobile before arresting her for driving without a license and supposed reckless driving. Mrs. Villegas DeLaPaz says she told the officer she was only three days from delivering. It apparently didn't matter, and she was turned over to the sheriff's department.
It also didn't matter what state law said about when any person can be arrested for committing a minor, non-violent, traffic offense. Mrs. Villegas DeLaPaz's attorney, Elliott Ozment, says state law allows for a person to only be written a ticket if they have an alternative form of photo ID and car registration. Mrs. Villegas DeLaPaz produced a Matricula card photo ID and car registration in absence of a driver's license. She did not have a driver's license because the state of Tennessee no longer allows undocumented workers and their families to get one.
Ozment told NewsChannel 5 that he wants someone in authority in Davidson County to be accountable for all these wrongs. No matter whether anyone is in this nation legally or not, our Constitution nationally protects him or her. Berry Hill's Police and Davidson County's sheriff's departments are not excluded from obeying this document.
These authorities can admit their wrongs now and make amends to Mrs. Villegas DeLaPaz for her incarceration over seven days, or they can face a jury that will undoubtedly include women who have given birth. These mothers will readily recognize the wrongs based on simple moral and constitutional grounds, and make taxpayers in Davidson County pay dearly for what their supposed public servants have failed to recognize and respect.