A Pacific County immigrant arrested by immigration officials after talking to The Seattle Times now has a lawyer and a bond hearing scheduled, but will likely stay at the detention center for a month.

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A lawyer has stepped forward to represent a Pacific County man arrested by immigration agents after talking to The Seattle Times.

ICE arrests

These are the boots and shellfish rake of Andres Hernandez. He had been working in Pacific County for nearly two decades before he was picked up by immigration agents. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
These are the boots and shellfish rake of Andres Hernandez. He had been working in Pacific County for nearly two decades before he was picked up by immigration agents. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

“Hopefully, we can get his bond lowered,” said Yakima attorney Stephen Robbins, who is taking the case pro bono in conjunction with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez — a 35-year-old Mexican immigrant who has lived in the U.S. illegally for nearly two decades, most of that time digging clams in Southwest Washington — needs $25,000 to be released from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. Speaking to The Times by phone, he said he could afford neither that bond nor an attorney.

Robbins said the earliest date he could get a bond hearing is Jan. 4, so Aburto Gutierrez likely will have to stay at the detention center until then.

His longtime girlfriend, arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in June, is back in Mexico with their children. Aburto Gutierrez, who has been supporting them, said he planned to join them next year but wanted to save money first.

His Nov. 27 arrest generated enormous interest among readers and the news media, including Mexican newspapers and TV networks such as Univision, because of the possibility that ICE retaliated against him for speaking to The Times.

He said an agent who stopped him said: “You are the one from the newspaper.”

When Aburto Gutierrez asked why he was being arrested, he said, the agent explained that a supervisor told him to track the immigrant down because of the newspaper coverage.

For a story about ramped-up immigration enforcement in Pacific County under President Donald Trump, Aburto Gutierrez spoke to The Times last month about his girlfriend’s arrest. The Chinook Observer ran an interview with the shellfish worker in August.

An ICE spokeswoman declined to comment on whether newspaper coverage played a role in the arrest.

Mexican consulate officials have talked with Aburto Gutierrez several times since his arrest, by phone and in person at the detention center. A statement from the consulate said it was concerned with protecting the rights of Mexican nationals, and had ensured that Aburto Gutierrez had legal representation.

Robbins said he offered to help after reading about Aburto Gutierrez’s arrest. It corresponded with what he described as a shift in policy under Trump “toward either arbitrary arrests or arrests I think are designed to intimidate the community.”

ICE could have put Aburto Gutierrez into deportation proceedings without taking him to the detention center, the Yakima attorney said. Under President Barack Obama, he observed, agents often released people without criminal records on their own recognizance or set relatively low bonds. In Obama’s last years in office, due to new guidance, agents rarely arrested people unless they had criminal convictions.

Aburto Gutierrez does not appear to have a criminal record in Washington state, according to public records.

ICE said it is still focusing on criminals under Trump, but in accordance with the president’s instructions, will not exempt anyone from arrest who is in the U.S. illegally.