Some Americans may have forgotten that America is a land of immigrants; it always has been and always will be.
The history of our nation, in part, is the stories of men, women and children leaving their own homes in their native lands and finding a new life here. With determination, courage, vision, the hope and promise of a better life for themselves and their children, and to breathe freedom’s air or worship God according to their own consciences, these immigrants, our forebears, made the arduous journey to America, worked the land, built industry, had children and prospered. Others however, slaves, were forced to leave their own lands and to endure unspeakable conditions, a dark side of our nation’s history. Nonetheless, all in the United States have distant or near relatives who came to the land from another place. Each family has its own story of its journey to American and at times, a story of facing official hostility once they arrived.
Although there are many immigrant stories waiting to be told, Juana Villegas’ story unfortunately proves that discrimination and hostility to immigrants still occur and are not relegated to the distant past. Villegas’s story is shocking, but heart-wrenching. A Tennessean article, “Woman Shackled during Labor Gets Visa to Stay in U.S.,” recounts it. Villegas was bound and shackled to her hospital bed while in labor awaiting her baby’s birth. She was bound because law enforcement arrested her in 2008 during “a routine traffic stop” presumably for being an undocumented resident or having an expired visa. The routine traffic stop ultimately “led to deportation proceedings.” After enduring hardship and bureaucratic bungling (her file was misplaced), a federal judge ruled “that Davidson County Sheriff’s officials violated her rights.” In 2013, her case settled for “$490,000.”
Thereafter, she was granted a U-Visa, a visa “specifically given to victims of violent crime,” and used the money to purchase a home. Villegas now lives with her family, works as an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant assistant manager, and is an American citizen.
Villegas’s story has facilitated change nationally and locally. Now, the Davidson County “sheriff no longer enforces the federal 287 (g) deportation law here” in Nashville, and a policy now outlaws restraining pregnant women.” After all, immigrants are people, deserve to be respected and treated with dignity, and should not suffer humiliation and abuse simply because they were born in a distant land.
If you know or are an immigrant whose rights are being violated, contact attorney Perry A. Craft.
Perry A. Craft has dedicated his life to helping people in need. He has tried, settled, or resolved numerous civil and criminal cases in State and Federal courts, and has represented teachers and administrators before school boards, administrative judges, and the state Board of Education. Learn more about Attorney Craft.