Treatment of illegal immigrants in this country is not good by anyone’s standards, but this is really beyond the pale. A Latina woman in Arizona, detained while nine months pregnant, is claiming that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a law enforcement official known for his brutal tactics against illegal immigrants, forced her to give birth while chained to her bed. From Latina.com:
“Once she reached the hospital, nurses repeatedly begged the Sheriff’s staff to allow them to unchain the mother, but they refused and Chacon was forced to give birth while still shackled to the bed. At one point, the nurse asked for them to release her so that she could be escorted to the bathroom for a urinalysis, but even that request was denied. But the worst came once Chacon gave birth to her baby girl.
Still chained to the bed, Arpaio’s police staff refused to allow Chacon to hold her newborn baby and then warned her that if no one came to pick up the child within 72 hours, she would be turned over into state custody.”
There are two issues at work here. The first is the brutal treatment of illegal immigrants by Sheriff Arpaio, who has already been the subject of a civil rights investigation related to illegal racial profiling by his deputies. His brutal tactics include running jails out of canvas tents, chain gangs and other inmate abuses, while violent crime in his county (which includes Phoenix and its surroundings) continues to spiral. In recent years, Arpaio has focused more intensely on controlling illegal immigrants, arresting over 600 Latinos a year, only half of whom are in the country illegally. Arpaio’s racism caused the federal government to take away some of his power to enforce immigration law, but he is now citing made-up laws to support his claim that he can arrest illegal immigrants on the street anyway. You know it’s bad when U.S. Customs and Immigration – an organization not known for its tolerance and acceptance of illegal immigrants – tells you that you’re abusing your power. But Arpaio does not seem to care.
“You know what? They can take away anything they want. I’m still the elected sheriff,” said Arpaio to Glenn Beck in October. “I’m still going to enforce the state laws and I’m going to enforce the federal laws.”
This man is clearly appallingly out of line and should be removed from a position of power immediately. But Chacon’s case raises another question, which has to do with the practice of shackling women during childbirth generally. A 2006 New York Times article reported that chaining female prisoners during childbirth is still relatively common. As of 2006, only two states, California and Illinois, had laws against it, and although New York Gov. David Paterson promised earlier this year to stop the practice in his state, legislation about it has yet to materialize.
In October, a federal appeals court ruled that “constitutional protections against shackling pregnant women during labor had been clearly established by decisions of the Supreme Court and the lower courts.” So hopefully lawmakers who have proved to be more reasonable than Arpaio will stop this inhuman practice, which denies mothers the basic right to give birth in a safe and healthy manner, or even to see their children after birth. But for now, in Arpaio’s district, it’s clear that neither immigrants nor women are safe from horrible abuses of power.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.