Woman who gave birth in sheriff’s custody faces deportation

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 11:00pm

The woman who gave birth while in the custody of the Davidson County sheriff’s office is facing deportation next month and is suing the Department of Homeland Security for copies of her immigration records so she can fight the case.

Juana Villegas filed her complaint in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee on Tuesday seeking access to her immigration records, which she claims are not being turned over to her attorney Elliot Ozment.

Villegas was told by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this month that she would be facing deportation at her next scheduled meeting, which is March 11, according to the court filing.

The complaint states that in order for Ozment to effectively represent Villegas on her pending deportation, it is essential he receive a complete copy of her immigration file. The original request was made to ICE in August of last year and still has not been answered, according to the complaint.

In the meantime, Ozment said he is in negotiations with ICE on how to resolve Villegas’s case. Ozment believes Villegas was tortured and unlawfully restrained by the sheriff’s office while she was in custody over the July 4 holiday weekend last year.

“We are presently negotiating with ICE about a resolution to all of this,” Ozment said. “I’m not permitted to go into the details of that at this time. But we’re hoping that people will review the circumstances of this case and come to a resolution that will be a win-win for everybody. The fact of the matter is that Ms. Villegas is a victim of what I consider to be torture.”

Still, Ozment called the possibility Villegas could be deported next month “very real” and said he needs access to all her immigration files in order to represent her.

Last summer, Villegas was pulled over for a traffic stop in Berry Hill while she was nine months pregnant. Berry Hill Sergeant Tim Coleman elected to arrest Villegas instead of issuing her a citation because he said she did not show a proper form of identification — a claim Villegas’s attorney disputes.

Villegas was transferred to the county jail, where the sheriff’s office checked her immigration status as part of its controversial 287(g) agreement with ICE. The program has been vocally championed by Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall. The check showed Villegas was an illegal Mexican immigrant, who had already been deported in the 1990s.

While she was in custody, Villegas went into labor and was transferred to General Hospital, where she ultimately gave birth. During her stay in the hospital, Villegas was shackled to her delivery bed during labor and after the birth.

Her treatment sparked outrage by immigrant advocacy groups in Nashville and eventually led to the sheriff’s office changing its policy on handling women who go into labor while in custody.

As it turns out, the traffic violation for which Villegas was initially stopped was ultimately dismissed in Berry Hill Municipal Court, because the judge said Coleman did not fill out the ticket information properly.

Villegas is the mother of four children, all of whom are America citizens.

Advocates say 287(g) is unjust because it can lead to the deportation of immigrants who have committed a minor traffic offense, or in the case of Villegas, are ultimately innocent of their original charge.

By: springfield_guy on 12/31/69 at 6:00

who cares what the charge is, even if no charge at all. If they are here illegally, then they are not law abiding and need to be deported.....PERIOD.And....just because the traffic offense was dismissed due to error on the filing officer, doesn't mean that the offense didn't occur or that the illegal was innocent. They just got away with it.

By: ali999 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

"Advocates say 287(g) is unjust because it can lead to the deportation of immigrants who have committed a minor traffic offense, or in the case of Villegas, are ultimately innocent of their original charge."This woman was not guilty of a "minor" offense, but of a felony, re-entry after deportation. Even if she was found innocent of the original charge, she is still violating the law by her presence here, four kids or not. They don't give her any right to be here.

By: Loso on 12/31/69 at 6:00

uh, all charges should be dropped. If the initial charge didnt stick then the other ones shouldnt either. Bottom line. It worked for steve mcnair, it works for the rich so it should work for her.

By: PromosFriend on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Illegal entry in the 90's. Illegal re-entry. Duh, she is illegal. Send her back to Mexico. She's got 4 kids (but apparently no husband) that are U.S. citizens. They can stay and be adopted out, or they can go to Mexico with Mama. If they go with the woman then when they reach their majority they can apply to return to the U.S. As citizens I suppose that would be doable. If the bleeding heart lawyers want her off on a technicality, fine. Just arrest her for being illegal when she walks out of the courthouse door.

By: Malindaleigh on 12/31/69 at 6:00

ok correct me if I am wrong but this woman is ILLEGAL! ! ! So what if she has 4 kids, that is money us American (real Americans) are wasting on her and her family. They all 5 need to be send back to where they came from!

By: Malindaleigh on 12/31/69 at 6:00

ok correct me if I am wrong but this woman is ILLEGAL! ! ! So what if she has 4 kids, that is money us American (real Americans) are wasting on her and her family. They all 5 need to be send back to where they came from!

By: crystal1375 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I think they should leave the poor woman alone and, let her live her life happy with her 4 american children in the united states, because if only you people know what goes on in mexico everyday people killing other people for anything that they can sell just to make a little money to eat, people want to come to the united states to work because theres no money in mexico to live unless, there children are here in america working to send money there, i know because my husband is mexican and, does not have papers to be in the united states but he is to take care of me and, my two boys which me and, my boy are citizens, we was born here and, we are american. And other is when mexican people are here in america they pay taxes to everyone as what people think they not, they do?????????????????????????????

By: house_of_pain on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If she isn't deported, we will be sending the message that we don't enforce our laws in Tennessee.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

But Napalitano is now against workplace raids to catch the illegals. "The secretary is not happy and this is not her policy".http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/feb/26/raid-on-immigrants-alarms-obama-backers/Expect our wonderful government to stop enforcing the laws and "reform" so that illegal aliens are to be admired and imitated.

By: Rocket99 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Malindaleigh, if she is a citizen of Mexico, she is an American. The USA does not hold exclusive rights to the term American. She is NOT a USA citizen. Get your info and terminlolgy correct.As far as the kids, if they were born here I believe they are USA citizens. They would not have to apply for permission to come back to the USA after reaching legal adulthood or any other time. Think they have to have a USA passport to travel to Mexico though.If she truly is an illegal then she does need to be shipped back to her home country wherever it is in America.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Rocket99, the term American Citizen is considered by 99% of the world to mean a citizen of the United States of America.I can't believe that you are advocating deporting this woman and separating her from her newborn. How heartless.Of course, that is exactly what should be done to this felon. She should either be imprisoned or deported immediately.

By: Breakthrough on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Hi,Regardless of her immigration status, she deserves due process and human rights- that's what everyone on American soil is entitled to - and shackling someone while they are pregnant and going into labor goes against all those beliefs. The organization that I work for, Breakthrough (www.breakthrough.tv) knows Juana's story and the negative results of 287g very closely and did a video interview with her. Watch Juana tell her own story here - http://www.breakthrough.tv/product_detail.asp?proid=130&id=7We also produced a 3D site called Homeland Guantanamos where you can go behind the scenes of an immigrant detention center and see the inhumane and degrading conditions - which features Juana's story as well - www.homelandgitmos.com.When we deny due process and human rights to some, as we are doing with current immigration laws and actions we put all of our freedoms at risk.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Her status as a felon is indisputable.Next time, instead of a single restrain, there should be no less than two armed guards in the delivery room.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The first change needs to come from the top with legislation that denies automatic citizenship to the offspring of those who are within our borders illegally.There is evidence that this case may have been mishandled in some ways, but 'torture' is a big stretch. And the basic facts are that this person did not enter this country legally, and she obviously knew better.

By: jvilla on 12/31/69 at 6:00

if she was tortured by ice, why is she fighting to stay in this country, it would seem she would hightail it to mexico! i guess the baby she dropped will not get her out of deportation! she is probably getting 400 dollars worth of food stamps and she gets wic, and medicaid, thats the reason she is kicking and screaming and wont leave unless they put shackles on her and force her out of this country! with the money she pays the lawyers she could take to mexico and get a job instead of receiving benefits from the usa.