Photo: Angel Francisco Castro-Torres with Deputy Legal Director Dan Werner where the beating and arrest took place
Last year, Angel Francisco Castro Torres was beaten by Georgia police for what the officers involved in the beating admit was simply the color of his skin. After being beaten then detained for months, Castro-Torrres, with help from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Project and civil rights attorney Brian Spears filed a lawsuit against the officers. Recently, a settlement was reached.
In March of 2010, Castro-Torres was riding his bike, when he was pulled over by officers Jeremiah L. Lignitz and Brian J. Walraven in Smyrna, Georgia. The officers demanded his identification, questioned his immigration status, and then beat him, breaking his nose and eye socket. After the beating, he was sent to the Cobb County jail, where he remained for four months. The lawsuit claimed the officers tried to cover up the attack by sending Castro-Torres to the jail, which cooperates with the Department of Homeland Security, on matters to do with suspected undocumented immigrants.
The officers testified that they stopped Castro-Torres because of the color of his skin, and while this lawsuit did not directly oppose the law behind the agreement between Cobb County and DHS, it did claim that the arrest and beating of Castro-Torres based on race, and not a clear violation of law, was unconstitutional.
The settlement is expected to cover Castro-Torres’ medical expenses, as he required surgery to repair damage to his eye. Leaders of immigration policy reform remain frustrated with the Obama administration for upholding the 287(g) program that joins DHS and Cobb County.
A release from the Southern Poverty Law Center last week read:
“Under that program, in place in Cobb County since 2007 (287(g)), local law enforcement officials are empowered to enforce federal immigration law. Arrested individuals are checked for their immigration status and then can be turned over to immigration officials.
“This program allows certain individuals to be targeted based on race,” Bauer said. “It then uses trumped-up charges to funnel them into the immigration system – all while ignoring their constitutional and civil rights.”
Despite the DHS’s recent attempts to reduce such racial profiling, a report released by the department’s inspector general identified ongoing and alarming problems with the 287(g) program, including few protections against racial profiling and other civil rights abuses.