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MCSO Shackling Pregnant Moms, and Singer Linda Ronstadt Plans to March Against Arpaio

CHRISTMAS ANGEL

Miriam Mendiola-Martinez is a small woman, but her passive, sad demeanor makes her seem smaller. When she was busted by Scottsdale police for using false ID at her place of employment for six years — Dillard's department store — the arresting officer estimated the then-pregnant Latina's build at 4-foot-9 and 120 pounds.

She later told investigators that she'd purchased another person's identity on the street for about $400. She knew what she was doing was illegal, but it allowed her to work at Dillard's as a cleaning lady, helping to raise her American-born children. Her third child, Angel Carmarena Mendiola, was born December 21 at Maricopa Integrated Health System (the county hospital) while Miriam was still in MCSO custody.

In some ways, she was lucky. The MCSO's policy heretofore has been to shackle pregnant women as they give birth. My colleague Valeria Fernandez has previously reported on this MCSO policy for New Times, describing the ordeal of another pregnant Latina who was shackled throughout her labor, despite the wishes of healthcare providers.

But during Mendiola-Martinez's C-section at county, her female MCSO guard cut her some uncharacteristic slack by not shackling her during the actual operation. Afterward, though she was in terrific pain and could barely walk, the male guard who took over for the female officer shackled the new mother to her hospital bed. This, despite that she was repeatedly checked on by the same male guard, who also happened to be Hispanic, she said.

"He made the restraint on my left ankle very tight," she recalled through an interpreter. "One time, the nurse came in and could see that my foot was swollen because he would not loosen it."

Mendiola-Martinez had been shackled on and off throughout her 62 days in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's barbaric gulags. Each time she had a court appearance, she was strip-searched and shackled, as were the other prisoners. When she finally left the hospital on December 23, she was forced to march in shackles, her hands bound before her, the wound from her C-section still bleeding.

Though she'd been allowed two short visits with her baby, she didn't know what would happen to her child as she tried to keep pace with her armed escort. Later, she learned that her sister-in-law had picked up the child before she was ushered back to Lower Buckeye Jail. See, she had a court appearance to make before Commissioner David O. Cunanan on December 24.

Through the pro bono legal maneuvering of her criminal attorney David Black and the valiant efforts of her immigration lawyer Delia Salvatierra, she was finally released on Christmas Day. Black and the County Attorney's Office agreed on a plea deal: The 34-year-old mother of three pleaded guilty to a class 6 felony of solicitation to commit a forgery and was sentenced to time served and probation.

Salvatierra peppered ICE with legal paperwork before her client's release. Normally, an undocumented alien would be turned over to ICE after being cut loose from Arpaio's vast incarceration complex. From there, an undocumented immigrant might go on to a detention center at Florence or Eloy or even be deported back to Mexico, depending on the circumstances.

ICE, however, decided not to take Arpaio's damaged goods. No doubt, something about a pregnant woman separated from her child on the day of Jesus Christ's birth screamed bad publicity. However, ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard wouldn't cop to that.

"The decision as to whether an alien will be detained while his or her immigration case goes forward," said Picard, "is made on an individual basis depending on a variety of factors, including medical and other humanitarian considerations."

Indeed, during the George W. Bush administration, ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Meyers issued a memorandum highlighting the importance of ICE officers using their discretion when it comes to "arrest and custody determinations" concerning pregnant or nursing mothers. It probably didn't hurt that Salvatierra submitted this document as a reminder to ICE while advocating for her client.

ICE's own guidelines state, "Restraints for medical or mental-health purposes may be authorized only by the facility's clinical medical authority after reaching the conclusion that less restrictive measures are not appropriate."

The Arizona Department of Corrections has an almost identical policy in place. But such norms of humanity are not observed by the MCSO.

Questioned by reporter Fernandez for her story on the shackling of expectant moms, MCSO apologist and Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre cited the possibility that a woman might be "faking labor" and attempt escape.

Why a woman in great physical agony would try to run away from the hospital she assumes her newborn is still in is a conundrum only someone as slithery as MacIntyre could envision.

MCSO media liaison Lieutenant Brian Lee claimed that Mendiola-Martinez wasn't really shackled, but rather "had a soft restraint attached on one leg" to keep her from escaping.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons