On Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detained and may soon deport Edgar Javier Marin, an East Haven resident of 13 years with an authorized work permit, prompting an outcry from immigrant advocacy organizations throughout the state who began a campaign to keep him in the country.
Marin first came to the attention of ICE officials after a violent encounter with former East Haven police officer Dennis Spaulding two years ago. Though witnesses at the time said Spaulding beat and tased Marin, Marin was subsequently charged and convicted for assaulting a police officer, for which he was sentenced to two years’ probation. Since Marin is not yet a citizen, his conviction also gave the ICE grounds to deport him.
However, last week, Spaulding was sentenced to five years in prison for abusing Latino East Haven residents and pressing false charges to cover up his misconduct. In light of Spaulding’s conviction some are fighting to clear the names of residents like Marin who Spaulding targeted.
Regional immigration activists from East Haven, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford and other towns convened with Marin’s friends and family members to demonstrate against his deportation at East Haven town hall on Monday afternoon. They called for Marin’s release from ICE detainment and for the charges Spaulding brought against his victims, who were almost exclusively Latino, to be dropped.
“Javier is not a criminal; he is an innocent man, a father, a husband, and a friend,” said Bianca Torres, Marin’s wife and mother of his six-year-old son. “This is not just for me, this is for everyone bullied and abused by East Haven police. I’m asking for your support to help me clear his record.”
Marin was one of the many Latino East Haven residents who came forward during Spaulding’s trial to testify against him.
Witnesses who saw the arrest take place in 2011, including two of his cousins, said Spaulding beat and tased Marin after he asked the officer if he could recover his tools from his car, which was being towed after his wife had an accident.
“There should be protection for the people who came forward against this injustice,” said Merlhy Gutierrez, a supporter at the rally. “The officer in question is guilty, so why is Edgar being punished? There should be retrials.”
Marin is a legal resident who came to the U.S. 13 years ago at age 18 to live with his mother. He worked full time and volunteered with local Latino advocacy organizations Junta for Progressive Action and La Unidad Latina en Accion. When Spaulding brought charges against him, Marin accepted a plea bargain under the guidance of a public defender.
Elliot Friedman LAW ’15, who has been working with Marin through the Legal Services for Immigrant Communities clinic at the Yale Law School, said Marin felt like he had no choice but to accept the deal and plead guilty, and that at the time it was not the wrong move to make because it was unclear whether Spaulding would be convicted.
“When it’s your word against the police’s word, the court will always side with the police,” added La Unidad Latina en Accion organizer John Lugo. “Two years on probation sounds a lot better than up to 10 years in prison.”
Because Marin was convicted of an “aggravated felony,” he is subject to immediate deportation. Activists are fighting for ICE to grant Marin a “stay of removal,” a one-year period of safety from deportation, to give the activists time to challenge the convictions of other individuals whom Spaulding targeted.
On Thursday morning, ICE agents came to the car dealership at which Marin works and took him to a detainment center in Greenfield, Mass.
Lugo said Monday’s demonstration is just the beginning of what will be a long and difficult fight to reunite Marin with his family and to bring justice to Spaulding’s other victims.
ICE deported 368,644 unauthorized immigrants in 2013.