SEATTLE — A Mexican man who spoke with reporters about his longtime girlfriend’s immigration arrest has now been detained himself, and he says agents told him it’s because he was in the newspaper.
Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez spoke with the local Chinook Observer as well as The Seattle Times after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained his girlfriend in June. He was identified by only his nickname in the Observer, and not by name in the Times.
Aburto Gutierrez, 35, told the Times in a phone interview from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma that he was arrested last Monday morning in Ocean Shores, where he lives and works as a clamdigger.
He said an agent told him: “My supervisor asked me to come find you because of what appeared in the newspaper.”
ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley told the Times that the agency doesn’t retaliate as a rule. But when pressed about Aburto Gutierrez’s case, she declined to comment, the Times reported.
“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 agency said in a statement sent by Haley.
“This does not mean an alien is exempt from future immigration enforcement,” it added.
Aburto Gutierrez has lived in the U.S. for 18 years and has children with his girlfriend, Gladys Diaz. Diaz was arrested when she took their children to meet with someone who answered an ad she placed to sell a homemade piñata; it turned out to be a sting.
Before the agents took her away, Aburto Guttierez said, they walked her home so she could drop off her children with him. Since he was also in the country illegally, he recalled, he asked: “Why you don’t take us all?”
She has since been deported and now lives near Puerto Vallarta with their children.
The family’s story was featured by the newspapers as examples of the effect of ramped-up deportation efforts under President Donald Trump, which include removing longtime residents with no apparent criminal records. The Observer piece ran in August, the Times piece in early November.
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project legal director Matt Adams said Aburto Gutierrez might have grounds to explore whether ICE violated his free speech rights.
“It certainly is troubling,” Adams said.
Aburto Gutierrez said he cannot afford a lawyer or the $25,000 bond needed to be released from the detention center. He said he has not yet been given a court date.
Diaz sobbed when she discussed his arrest in a phone interview, the Times reported. She said she doesn’t know how she’s going to support the family. He had been sending his earnings to them in Mexico.