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Pregnant and Shackled: Hard Labor for Arizona's Immigrants | Civil Liberties | AlterNet

Posted Jan 29 2010 6:23am

 By Valeria Fernandez

Undocumented immigrants like Miriam Mendiola Martinez are forced to give birth while wearing "soft restraints."

January 28, 2010  |  

PHOENIX, Ariz.-- Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, an undocumented immigrant charged with using someone else’s identity to work, gave birth to a boy on Dec. 21 at Maricopa Medical Center. After her C-section, she was shackled for two days to her hospital bed. She was not allowed to nurse her baby. And when guards walked her out of the hospital in shackles, she had no idea what officials had done with her child.

Like Mendiola-Martinez, pregnant inmates in Maricopa County Jail are routinely denied bond because they are undocumented immigrants. That means they can’t get out of jail for their childbirth, even if they are awaiting trial for a minor offense.

In some cases, undocumented immigrants are shackled as they are transported to the jail-contracted hospital, and shackled during and after childbirth.

Hospital authorities don't control this practice and medical personnel involved in these cases declined to be interviewed.

All hospitalized inmates are treated in the same manner as Mendiola-Martinez, according to Lt. Brain Lee, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He said she had a “soft restraint” attached on one leg to her bed to prevent escape.

That soft restraint was a 12-foot-long chain.

“I could barely walk, I don’t think I could have escaped or even dared to run. I don’t think there was a need for them to do that,” said 34-year-old Mendiola-Martinez.

She says she was shackled during the two last months of her pregnancy too. Every time she had a pre-natal appointment, she waited in a small un-ventilated room with 20 other women. She had to sit in the floor. The chains were heavy and hurt her waist. Mendiola-Martinez often wept. She feared that her sadness could hurt the baby.

Unequal Justice

Mendiola’s story would have been different if she hadn’t been undocumented. She would have been released on bond before her baby was born because she had committed a non-violent crime, according to David Black, a criminal defense attorney who took her case pro-bono…

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