MERIDEN— An attorney representing City Councilor Miguel Castro is seeking video and other evidence showing what occurred in the area behind Meriden Superior Court Thursday evening.
”I know there were a variety of witnesses who were there,” said Attorney Robert Berke of Bridgeport. “I know what the charges are. I want to look at the police report and the videos. It’s premature to respond to one video. I’d like to see as much of the evidence that is out there.”
Castro was involved in an altercation with court marshals after they had detained immigrant Elias Roblero-Berduo.
Roblero-Berduo’s children entered the secure area behind the courthouse to see their father being put in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, according to witnesses.
Roblero-Berduo was in court Thursday to answer to charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs in January 2017 and on Nov. 19, 2018. He was given a two-year probation with special conditions.
Castro and members of Unidad Latina en Accion were protesting ICE’s presence at the courthouse and the marshals’ decision to detain the man without a federal warrant. State Police investigated and charged Castro with two counts of assault on public safety personnel and one count of first-degree riot. Castro called the charges “unjust and unwarranted.”
Troopers allege Castro assaulted two marshals while they were attempting to move the crowd of about 15 to 20 people protesting at the scene. State police said the marshals were trying to disperse the crowd, which was in a secured parking area.
In a statement Friday, Castro denied assaulting the marshals and said he was trying to help distraught members of the man’s family.
“While attempting to provide support to an immigrant family abruptly facing family separation, the situation unfairly and rapidly escalated,” Castro said. “I am being accused of inciting a riot and assaulting a public safety officer. Instead, what I was doing was asserting my First Amendment rights and assisting a family in crisis.”
A video from a Meriden Police Department camera shows little more than people coming and going from the scene.
“I would imagine the judicial department would have a (better) video,” Berke said.
A spokeswoman for the state Judicial Department said the judicial branch complies with state laws regarding civil immigration detainers. The law calls for judicial marshals, police officers and others to determine whether an ICE detainer is enforced. Some of the reasons for enforcement include – conviction of a felony, pending criminal charges, identification as a gang member or a terrorist in a database, presenting an unacceptable risk to public safety or being subject to a final order of deportation.
Once a determination has been made, ICE has 48 hours to take custody of the individual.
Unidad Latina en Acción shared a separate video of the incident on its Facebook page, but it was later removed. The group also accused Connecticut judicial marshals of calling ICE after a judge let the defendant go on probation.
“Connecticut Judicial Marshals pushed heartbroken kids, who could only see the white van taking away their dad,” according to the Unidad Latina Accion Facebook post.
Group representatives could not be reached for further comment Monday.
ICE representatives also could not be reached for comment.
New Haven immigration attorney Glenn Formica has known Castro for several years. After hearing of his arrest and viewing a video, he referred Castro to Berke.
“When I saw the charges, I said ‘you’ve got to be kidding,’” Formica said. “He was there to help and all of a sudden the guy comes running after him. The kids flipped out, you can hear the kids screaming on the video.”
The state has a Trust Act, which allows some discrection over following ICE’s detainer orders. It is not certain if there was a detain order on Roblero-Berduo.
Immigration and civil liberties advocates say they support enforcing detain orders on felonious criminals and warrants signed by a court judge, but that the practice of detaining people for ICE could lead to people avoiding justice, particularly crime victims, advocates have argued.
“How can it be the federal government has prerogative over immigration, but a judicial marshal is free to decide if he wants to work for the federal government? If nothing else, they are state employees,” Formica said.
Formica acknowledged that others disagree over some of the terms of the Trust Act.
A bill that would have expanded and better define the roles and provisions of the Trust Act received a public hearing before the General Assembly’s Judicial Committee in March, but a vote was never scheduled. The bill would have prohibited state and local law enforcement from serving ICE detainers without a valid federal judicial warrant, something several cities in the state have implemented locally.
Castro has faced criticism from his fellow city councilors, with several suggesting he resign. Others are watching the court proceedings before rendering an opinion. He is scheduled to appear in Meriden Superior Court on Dec. 27.
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