In December 2018, a local lawmaker and political activist was participating in a pro-immigration protest outside a Connecticut courthouse when ICE – the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency – took into custody an undocumented Mexican man, the father of five children. When two of the children protested the arrest of their father, Meriden City Councilmember Miguel Castro offered support to them. He was arrested himself and charged with assaulting a public safety officer, a class C felony, and first-degree riot, a class A misdemeanor. In 10 court appearances since, the prosecutors have offered a plea bargain deal on increasingly lenient terms, the latest being fulfilling court-ordered community service hours. But Castro insists he did nothing wrong and will take the case to trial if the state refuses to drop the charges.
Since this incident occurred, Connecticut’s legislature passed a bill strengthening existing law to better protect the undocumented from the actions of ICE officers, although it’s unclear how effective the new law will be.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus was present when Castro spoke at a press conference outside the courthouse in Milford, Connecticut, after yet another postponement of his case on Sept. 26. Here, he explains why he’s taking a stand in solidarity with the immigrant community and the weakness of the state’s case against him.
MIGUEL CASTRO: I’m sure all of you are here because we were expecting that today was the final court date, for not only myself, but on behalf of the many who have been subject to discrimination, segregation and injustice. I have made it very clear from the beginning that this wasn’t just about me. We knew what we wanted to accomplish, and the objective has always been justice for the many families who have been subject to this kind of discrimination. We have been part of many other efforts throughout many other municipalities and the state in helping to craft legislation so we can stand against this kind of injustice in our communities, so we can create change, so we can fix the flawed process.
So we are here today, as with every other court date, the prosecution started with, “We have a smoking gun, we have something,” and as the evidence continued to gather, they realized that there’s nothing, that what we said from the very beginning – although the narrative has been ” city counselor Miguel Castro assaulted two public safety officers and has incited a riot” – whichis what they charged me with, we are ready to fight that narrative. We’ve been ready from the beginning. We’ve been truthful. We have stood on the right side of justice. We want to continue to stand on the right side of history, to the extent we can hold the process accountable.
So it’s been nine months, and it has taken a toll on me and on my family. But that’s nothing compared to what many families have gone through that have been subject to this kind of injustice and discrimination. And in one way, I’m glad this happened to me, that I was arrested on Dec. 13 inside that sallyport when I witnessed judicial marshals physically and verbally badgering a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old who were yelling, “Please don’t take my father.”
For them to put together a case, so they can justify their lies and the flaws in the system, not only against me but members of the community, legislators all across the state that have been fighting against this their entire political career as community organizers. So, we are going to reveal, and we are prepared to reveal, the tape of that night, the transcript of what transpired here for the last nine months, we are going to name, and show pictures and do a roll call of every marshal who lied to a state trooper, and we want to hold this holy place of justice accountable to remind them that they have to follow the rule of law.
And they have made different offers, and it went from this offer to this real small offer and we part ways and call it a day. Not for Nellie and her five children. Not for Nelson Pinos. Not for Sujitno. Not for the Reyes family, not for the Ramos family, not for Malik and Zahaira, and the many, and the list goes on and on. I am so grateful and fortunate that I am friends and part of this tremendous coalition.
This is not going to end. If the prosecution wants to take this to a whole different level, they understand, and they have admitted, that they don’t have a case. They want to defend the undefendable, and we are ready to take this to the last consequence on behalf of members of our community. I’m not backing off; I’m not backing down. My legal team is ready. I am ready. The community is ready. And we really want to shine on behalf of the people who don’t have a voice.
Glenn Formica, a member of my legal team, the day after I was arrested, texted me, after many conversations, and he said, “Miguel, I wanted to remind you that this is not a sprint; this is a marathon.”’ And for somebody like me, who is a runner, that really resonated really well and I can relate to what he was trying to convey to me.
In conclusion, I thank everybody for coming. We’re going to continue to fight this. We are standing on the right side of history. We are now at a turning point, in real time, to make some serious change that’s going to last long-term, not short-term. And again, I appreciate everybody being here, and we’ll see you at the next court date. Thank you.