An undocumented immigrant says he was targeted for arrest after speaking to a newspaper about the strange arrest of his wife earlier this year.
Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez said that he was stopped by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SUV after a long shift harvesting clams in southern Washington State. As Mr Aburto Gutierrez entered a parking lot, the SUV got in his way, and an ICE agent approached him.
“You are Rosas,” Mr Aburto Gutierrez recalled the agent telling him to the Seattle Times. “You are the one from the newspaper.”
Mr Aburto Gutierrez had been featured in two recent newspaper articles, where he discussed a sting operation that led to his wife’s arrest by immigration officials. In one article his name was not mentioned, while just his nickname was used in the other, in August.
“My supervisor asked me to come find you because of what appeared in the newspaper,” Mr Aburto Gutierrez said the agent explained when he asked why he was being arrested. He said that the agent was speaking English, a language that Mr Aburto Gutierrez is not fluent in.
Still, he said he understood what the agent was saying. He said that he ultimately concluded that the arrest was retaliation.
An ICE spokesperson denied that the agency targets immigrants for retaliatory reasons. Requests for clarification of the role that the newspaper stories may have played in Mr Aburto Gutierrez’s arrest were not immediately returned.
Mr Aburto Gutierrez says that he has lived in the United States for 18 years, and has worked 10-hour days since travelling to Washington, where he met his girlfriend, Gladys Diaz. The two built a life together there, and had children, until she was arrested in June.
The circumstances of that arrest add to the curiosity surrounding Mr Aburto Gutierrez’s arrest. While Ms Diaz spent much of her time tending to the children, she also sold piñatas on the side. She was arrested while meeting someone who had answered an online ad she had posted for her piñatas.
After picking Ms Diaz, the arresting agents proceeded to drive her children back home, where they put them in Mr Aburto Gutierrez’s custody. He said that he recalls asking the agent then why they weren’t taking all of them, since he was also in the country illegally.
The agents said that they were arresting Ms Diaz because she had a prior deportation order after getting caught sneaking over the border decades ago. He, however, did not have a similar background.
The unusual nature of the piñata sting made the case a hot topic of discussion in the county, and turned into an example of the deportation policies pushed during the administration of President Donald Trump. While ICE says that they prioritize criminal aliens living in the US unlawfully, critics have said that the President has broadened the definition of who can be considered a threat — and, in the process, picking up non-violent undocumented immigrants without legal histories.