U.S. immigration authorities detained last week an illegal Mexican immigrant after he was featured in newspapers following his girlfriend’s immigration arrest in June.
Baltazar "Rosas" Aburto Gutierrez, who has lived in the country for 18 years, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last Monday after he talked about his girlfriend’s arrest with the local Chinook Observer and The Seattle Times.
The girlfriend, who is also his children’s mother, was detained when she took their children to meet someone interested in the ad about a homemade piñata she was selling. The meeting turned out to be a sting by immigration authorities and she was arrested.
Guttierez said the authorities walked her home so she can drop off the kids with him before taking her away. He claims to have told the ICE agents “Why you don't take us all?" as he was illegally in the U.S. as well. The woman has since been deported and lives in Mexico with their children.
Their story was featured prominently in multiple newspapers, portraying the increased deportation efforts under the Trump administration and a crackdown on illegal immigrants who have not committed other crimes.
Speaking from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Gutierrez told the Times that he was arrested last week in Ocean Shores, where he lives and works as clamdigger. “My supervisor asked me to come find you because of what appeared in the newspaper,” he said an ICE agent told him.
ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said the agency does not retaliate, but declined to comment on Gutierrez's case.
"ICE conducts targeted immigration enforcement in compliance with federal law and agency policy, and at times, exercises prosecutorial discretion when the circumstances of a particular case have extenuating factors like the care of minor children or an alien's medical condition," the statement read, adding that "This does not mean an alien is exempt from future immigration enforcement.”
Legal advisors for immigrants said Gutierrez could potentially argue that ICE violated his free speech rights because he was arrested after speaking out. "It certainly is troubling," Northwest Immigrant Rights Project legal director Matt Adams told the Times.
Gutierrez said he cannot afford the $25,000 bond and has not yet been given a court date. His girlfriend, speaking from Mexico, said the arrest is putting the family in jeopardy as he was sending his earnings to them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.