A man sitting in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma wants a judge to deport him as his family is returning to Mexico.
After KIRO 7 made calls and sent emails to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, he is now scheduled for a bond hearing before a judge March 14.
Juan Pablo Chavira says he stayed one day over his authorized time in the United States on his tourist visa. He had planned to go to Canada, visit the sights with his wife, and then come back and renew his visa at the border. However, because of his status, Canadian border agents did not let him in, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained him.
“I feel very, very sad. He’s not a criminal,” said his wife, Nancy Juarez. “He’s not a bad person … We can pay for the flight on the airplane [to go home]. What is the problem?”
Chavira said he wants to go back to Mexico voluntarily, but instead, he was taken to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where he has been on the taxpayers’ dime for three weeks.
KIRO 7 spoke with Juarez after she said goodbye to her husband with their three children, Leo, 11 years old; Miranda, 4 years old; and Paulo, 17 months old. They are flying back to Mexico on Thursday evening. Their visas had not expired at the same time because Juarez and the children went home to Mexico in December without him and upon re-entry, they received another 180 days of authorized time.
“I just want to be happy with my mom and my family,” Leo Chavira said tearfully.
“It was hard to see my kids out there, and I'm here like a criminal, and I am not,” Juan Pablo Chavira told KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon by phone from inside the detention center. “Just waiting for an answer … I feel tired and worried about my situation. There’s not enough information here.”
Chavira owns and runs a small business that imports and sells hair accessories in Mexico. Juarez is fearful about how she will run the business and take care of her children without him.
“He was trying to play by immigration rules and he ended up in prison,” Eleanor Hoague, a retired attorney and immigration advocate who has been helping Juarez, told KIRO 7.
“What kind of wait times are you seeing out of the detention center in Tacoma?” KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked Jorge Baron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights project.
“About a month for the initial hearing is fairly common,” he said. “Unfortunately now, under the Trump administration they’re going after everybody regardless of how minor the violation is.”
Baron said Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays a private contractor per day per person to keep people in detention, even if they want to simply go home and can pay their own way.
He believes the system would benefit from more judges and public defenders for all people detained to move their cases through quickly but with fair representation.
“The system is not set up not to have due process happen,” he said. “It’s just a machine … and in some cases it leads to what we see here, where we waste a lot of money before somebody gets to go back, which is what they want to do in the first place.”
KIRO 7 reached out to ICE on Thursday morning for a comment on what the protocol is in a case like Chavira’s but had not received a reply by Thursday evening.
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