The threat of federal immigration detention looms over a man who has called Springfield home for the past decade.
This after a minor car accident led to his arrest, but he had dozens of supporters by his side for his day in court.
"Why are they doing this? It's just a minor case. I'm not a criminal," said Otoniel Gomez. Gomez was involved in a minor car accident in Springfield Thursday evening, but he did not have a license and was taken into custody. "If it was someone who looked like me who was pulled over, had a little fender bender, cop would give me a light slap on the wrist. Next time, have your license and people like Otoniel received very different treatment." said Gabriella Della Croce. Gomez's immediate fear was that ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would come to his arraignment.
A fear of being detained by ICE is something he lives with everyday. "They had been calling me twice already because I don't have a license and that's the only problem that they've been pushing me to look for help," Gomez explained. Gomez is charged with unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle without insurance, and for an improper turn. "I would like to have my papers soon, I will apply for them," Gomez added. However, it is not a simple task.
"The legal pathways to citizenship are like very, very difficult, very challenging. A lot of people really don't qualify. It's impossible right now, Croce noted. Springfield Police told Western Mass News that the officers followed the same booking procedure as they would for anyone under arrest.
"To accuse the Springfield Police Department of treating Mr. Gomez differently or to hold him longer than any other prisoner is completely inaccurate and untrue," said Springfield Police spokesperson Ryan Walsh. "These policies are keeping people in the shadows. This is not just impacting him, it's impacting the entire community that he's apart of. This is just perpetuating this tactic of fear," said Andrea Schmid. Gomez will be back in court in April. His supporters said they will remain in his corner.
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