Illegal Immigrant Awarded $200,000, Seeks U-Visa

Juana Villegas, an illegal Mexican immigrant living in the Nashville area, was recently awarded $200,000 in damages for her treatment by immigration authorities and is now seeking a U-visa to remain in the country.

While nine months pregnant, Villegas was arrested in 2008 for driving without a license and taken to a Tennessee detention center. After going into labor at the center, she was transferred to a hospital, where officers shackled her hands and feet to a gurney and to her hospital bed, despite doctors’ orders she be freed. Officers also refused to grant her privacy while she put on her hospital gown and prevented her from calling her husband, according to CNN.

Villegas sued for $1.2 million, and after a judge ruled in her favor, a jury awarded her $200,000 in damages.

Speaking to WSMV-4, the local NBC affiliate, Villegas said money did not motivate her, and she hopes her victory means other women will be spared her experience.

Villegas now intends to apply for a U-Visa, which is granted to crime victims who are illegal immigrants. Under a U-Visa, Villegas would be able to live legally in the United States for three years and apply for citizenship.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 10,000 U-Visas in 2010, up from 6,000 in 2009.