At a crowded meeting at the New Haven People’s Center on Monday night, members of grassroots advocacy group Unidad Latina en Accion recounted stories and cases of brothers, spouses and friends who currently face deportation proceedings, asking activists and community members for support.
Among those in attendance was Edgar Javier Marin, who can empathize with their cases — he was just released from Immigration and Customs enforcement two weeks prior, facing deportation proceedings for a crime he did not commit.
The resulting felony conviction — which was recently reduced to a misdemeanor — attracted the attention of ICE officials when former East Haven police officer Dennis Spaulding filed a false police report alleging that Marin had assaulted him.
It was later discovered that Spaulding beat Marin, breaking his wrist and inflicting other injuries, and charged him with assaulting a police officer. Spaulding is now serving a five-year prison sentence for harassing and assaulting Latino residents of East Haven and filing false reports to cover up his behavior.
A legal East Haven resident of 13 years, Marin was detained awaiting deportation on Jan. 31 for six weeks. Marin’s criminal charge was reduced to a misdemeanor on March 17 and he was released from custody.
Still, the specter of Spaulding’s assault continues to haunt him, as he awaits his trial in immigration court on May 6, which will determine whether he will be allowed to continue residing in the United States.
Marin and ULA joined a national organization called Not 1 More, which calls for suspension of all deportations until immigration reform is achieved. Marin and other members of ULA will be participating in the campaign’s national day of action on April 5 to support Marin and countless other Connecticut residents, both authorized and unauthorized, that are facing deportation.
Marin’s case, like many other deportation cases, is “two-pronged”, according to Elliot Friedman LAW ’15, a law student working with the Legal Services for Immigrants Clinic (LSIC) at the Law School. Marin was originally involved in a criminal case for his encounter with Spaulding in 2011. Marin feared that his word would not hold up against Spaulding’s in court, so he accepted a plea bargain and pled guilty to the charge of assaulting a police officer.
Marin’s sentence gave ICE the grounds to open a second case in immigration court and begin deportation proceedings against Marin — years after he completed his probation and believed he was in good standing with the law. He was detained on Jan. 31.
The New Haven Superior Court reopened his case on March 17, granting him the writ of Coram Nobis, which is employed in cases in which new evidence comes to light after the conviction. In this case, that new information was Spaulding’s conviction and admission to falsifying police reports like the one used to convict Marin in 2011.
The judge allowed Marin to plead guilty to a lesser charge of interfering, a misdemeanor. According to court records, Marin’s public defender David Forsythe told the judge the reduced conviction should put Marin in better standing when he returns to immigration court on May 6, where he hopes to close the deportation case.
While Forsythe represented Marin in court when his case was reopened, LSIC is representing Marin in immigration court.
Friedman said he hopes Marin’s case will be a model for resolving unfair deportation cases.
Marin was held in the Franklin County Sheriffs office in Greenfield, Mass., which has a contract with ICE to hold detainees. A congressional directive requires U.S. detention centers to fill at least 34,000 beds per night, which drives ICE agents to reach back into old records to uncover immigrants who are eligible for deportation, even years after their sentencing, said Fountain.
On March 12, the immigration court allowed Marin to post a $7,000 bond and be released from detention. The next day, activists drove to Greenfield to retrieve him.
ULA organizer John Lugo said Marin was tearful and traumatized upon his release. Having falsely tested positive for tuberculosis, Marin was kept in solitary confinement to quarantine him for the first week, which was especially traumatic.
Lugo said that rather than merely reducing his conviction, the state should have cleared him and compensated him for his pain and suffering, including medical expenses for the broken wrist Spaulding inflicted on him.
“It is the responsibility of the state to reopen all of the cases of Spaulding’s victims and give people a chance to clear their names,” Lugo said. “I don’t understand why the state hasn’t done anything like this and hesitated to reopen Edgar’s case.”
Marin has thus far escaped the fate of the 1,100 people who are deported every day, leaving behind families, jobs, and opportunities.
In response to the overwhelming number of harmful deportation cases arising in the New Haven community, ULA has joined with the national anti-deportation organization Not 1 More, which is coordinating a national day of action next Saturday, April 5.
Coordinated by the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance and ULA, immigrant advocacy groups and demonstrators statewide will be driving in large caravans from Connecticut’s eastern and western extremities, picking up new groups as they close in on New Haven. The eastbound caravan will stop in Stamford and Bridgeport, among other towns, and the westbound caravan has stops planned in New London, Clinton, Meridan and East Haven. After uniting in New Haven, they will all caravan northward to Hartford to demonstrate at the federal courthouse downtown.
Though the court will not be in session, Lugo said, they hope to stage the demonstration as a powerful media event that authorities will see on the news. He said the event is likely to bring hundreds of people.
“The people are demanding change, and the government is not serving our needs,” said ULA activist Jose Luis Piscil, who is currently facing deportation for minor charges that were dropped. “Obama not doing anything for immigration reform, or to stop deportations, so we have to pressure him. I am definitely going to be involved in the April 5 demonstration. That’s how we make change — we take it to the streets, or they’ll keep abusing us.”
ICE conducted a total of 368,644 deportations in fiscal year 2013.
Correction: March 26
A previous version of this story said 110 people are deported every day. The correct figure is 1,100.