DREAMer and DACA-Applicant Octavio Castaneda Flores Free After Eight Months Nonbondable in Maricopa County Jail
Octavio Flores with members of his family, hours after being released
The first time I met Octavio Castaneda Flores, he was in county stripes, his hands cuffed to a desk where he sat in the visiting room of Durango Jail.
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It was January, and already he had spent four months in stir, nonbondable on eight class four felonies involving forgery and ID theft.
Octavio, now 28, would spend four more months in jail, before he was finally released this week, after the prosecutor in the case moved to dismiss all remaining charges.
Wednesday, I saw him as a free man, surrounded by his children, his wife Brenda, and their newborn Michael.
He had missed the birth of his youngest son. Nevertheless, he was all smiles.
"It feels great to have my family back," he told me, as Michael slept the sleep of the innocent in Brenda's arms. "I can't explain it. I don't have the words to explain it."
Brenda visited him regularly during the more than eight months he was in jail, but she didn't tell the children the truth. The young couple didn't want the kids to see their father handcuffed and in stripes or think him a criminal.
Octavio talked to the kids via phone, and Brenda told them their dad was away, on a job out of state. Meanwhile, she struggled through the situation as best she could, relying on her family for help.
"It was very hard going through labor and doing all that without him," she said. "In the past, I've always had him to be there to help me out with the whole process."
The baby was born May 30. She took Michael with her to visit Octavio in jail a couple of days later.
"I had just gotten out of the hospital," she explained, her voice weary. "But I really wanted him to see the baby. So I took him."
Octavio's case was featured in my February cover story on a discriminatory legal mechanism that lands undocumented workers like him in jail, jacked up on forgery charges.
Under a constitutional amendment passed by Arizona voters in 2006, those presumed to be guilty of a class four felony or above and presumed to be in the country illegally are denied bail.
So if the Maricopa County Attorney's Office hits an undocumented person with a class four felony charge -- or as is usually the case, multiple class four felony charges -- for working with a false Social Security Number or identity, that individual has two choices.
He or she can stick it out in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's gulags, sometimes for as long as eight or nine months, awaiting trial; or plead guilty to a felony that will likely make them removable from the United States once they are turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.