South American tourist detained by immigration officials after overstaying visa by 30 minutes
Tacoma, WA (CNN) - A man from South America is stuck in federal detention after authorities say he over-extended his stay in the country by 30 minutes.
For six months Diego Simonassi said he roamed freely about the United States, backpacking all over the country. But when his time was up on June 14 and he tried to enter Canada to continue his trip, he didn't know he needed a visa to get through the border. Canadian authorities at the Peace Arch Crossing turned him back to the US side, but it was 30 minutes past midnight.
Diego Simonassi – Backpacker: "I asked for help, 'What can I do if I can't come back to the United States?' And without making a lot of questions he just arrested me."
US immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) seized Simonassi and transported him 145 miles south to the northwest detention center in Tacoma, where he's been ever since.
Steve Tanijo - Immigration Attorney: "I think it's ridiculous. I think it's one of the problems that we have with our immigration laws."
Seattle immigration attorney Steve Tanijo was so incensed he agreed to take up Simonassi's case for free.
Steve Tanijo: "He's a backpacker. I used to backpack around the world, as well. I kind of relate."
Tanijo says ice has offered to let Simonassi out on a $7,500 bond.
Steve Tanijo: "Which he has no money. He's a backpacker."
Diego Simonassi: "No, I don't have it, and to be honest, I don't think I have to pay. I haven't done any crime or any illegal thing."
Or he can pay for a one-way flight back to Uruguay.
Steve Tanijo: "Which also he doesn't really want to do. He just wants to continue his travel."
Simonassi says he's done nothing that deserves this kind of treatment and is willing to sit in confinement until he can legally get on with his trip through North America.