"When I was in bed, I was begging the sheriff, 'Please let me free— at least one hand,' and he said, no, he didn't want to," Juana Villegas said in an interview with a local Nashville television station. She was describing the experience of being shackled to her hospital bed as she went into labor. Villegas gave birth in the sheriff's custody, after she was stopped by local police while driving without a valid license.
According to Elliott Ozment, Villegas's lawyer, driving without a license is generally handled with a citation, not an arrest. He believes Villegas was only brought in because she was an undocumented immigrant.
Like Villegas, Alma Chacon, and Miriam Mendiola-Martinez gave birth in the United States shackled to their hospital beds, without their husbands, and in the presence of a prison guard. They also were not violent criminals, but rather, they were all undocumented and charged with an immigration-related offense in Sheriff Arpaio’s jurisdiction of Maricopa County, Arizona.
Cases such as these have garnered outrage from immigrant rights advocates. Critics take aim at both the legal classification of immigration-related offenses and the standards of prioritizing undocumented mothers' rights at the state and federal level.