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Mother's ordeal as undocumented immigrant ends in a U-visa

The purpose of a U-visa is to provide legal status to non-citizens who are victims of crimes and who agree to be witnesses for prosecutors or who help with investigations into criminal activities. One mother has been awarded a U-visa due to her experience as an undocumented immigrant woman forced to endure unnecessary hardships during and after labor. Although she did not suffer this abusive treatment in North Carolina, non-citizens there may be interested in her story.

In 2008, the then-pregnant woman was stopped after having committed a minor traffic violation. The officer who made the traffic stop arrested her after he discovered that she did not have a driver's license, which made him suspect that she was in the country without the proper documents. After her arrest, she was placed in the county jail with the general population.

Two days after her arrest, the nine-month-pregnant woman went into labor. She was handcuffed, shackled and transported to the local hospital. Once there, one leg and one arm were shackled to the bed. She was briefly freed for the actual birth of her child, but the shackles were put back on for the duration of her hospital stay. Once she was returned to the jail, she was denied medical care for her postpartum needs.

A federal judge has granted the woman a U-visa based on her ordeal as an undocumented immigrant whose treatment at the hands of law enforcement was found to be a violation of her civil rights. Furthermore,the judge found that the sheriff's department in question violated official policies that stipulated how pregnant and nursing mothers are to be treated. Unfortunately, this woman's experience is not an isolated incident as there have been numerous reports of other women enduring reprehensible treatment at the hands of law enforcement officials. Non-citizens living in North Carolina who believe their civil rights have been violated are entitled to seek assistance from knowledgeable resources to ensure that their rights are protected while they work to secure their desired immigration status.

Source: nashvillescene.com, "Juana Villegas now has legal standing to live in the U.S. Other new mothers may not be so lucky", Heather Lyn Wood, Oct. 31, 2014

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