A five-year legal battle is finally over for Juana Villegas, an immigrant who was forced to give birth shackled to hospital bed while being detained by Davidson County police in 2008. That summer, Villegas was pulled over in Nashville, Tenn., for “reckless driving.” She was nine months pregnant, but instead of being given a traffic citation she was taken into custody and then detained after police discovered she was undocumented, because federal authorities had given county police the right to enforce immigration policies. Villegas then gave birth to her son in prison, was shackled to a bed throughout her labor, and prevented from seeing her newborn son for two days after.
She has been awarded $490,000 in the settlement by a council representing both the city of Nashville and Davidson County. She has also been given the opportunity to apply for a U visa, which are made available to immigrants who have been victims of crimes in the U.S. A federal judge in Tennessee ruled in Villegas’ favor in 2011, but city officials have spent the last two years disputing the amount of damages she should receive. Because of this case, Davidson county no longer restrains women who are giving birth while incarcerated.