Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guest Post: Attorney Steve Tanijo obtains Release for Backpacker Detained for overstaying visa by 30 minutes!


Steve Tanijo successfully obtained the release of Diego Farre Simonassi, a National of Uruguay who was detained at the U.S. border in Blaine for allegedly overstaying his visa by 30 minutes! Mr. Simonassi's arrest and Tanijo's work in securing his release was widely covered in local, national, and international media. Tanijo accepted this case pro-bono because he believed that Simonassi was a victim of gross injustice.


Simonassi, a backpacker from Uruguay, gave up all of his possessions and money before coming to the United States. He wanted to experience travelling through the United States, meeting locals and serving the communities through which he traveled. During the validity of his 6 month long visa,  Simonassi traveled up the Coast of the United States towards his next destination of Canada. At every town that he lived in during his travel north, he volunteered at a local church or community center in an effort to meet locals and understand their lives and stories better. Much of his time was spent helping the elderly, our US Citizens, with their daily needs. 


Eventually he hitchhiked to the Canadian Boarder on the last day that his visa for the U.S. was valid. Unaware that he needed a visa to enter Canada, he reached the Canadian Immigration office at the border at 8:00 PM, but was told that he needed a visa to enter the country. The Canadian authorities then turned him back to the United States. The U.S. authorities took him into custody and kept him detained till 12:30 AM at which time he was told that he was being detained for having overstayed his visa.


At the time of his arrest, Simonassi was wrongly informed that he was not being sent to jail, when in fact, the Northwest Detention Center is in fact a facility where detainees are held in conditions that are the same as a jail. Furthermore, he was told that it would take a few days to sort through the misunderstanding; however, as days turned into weeks,  Simonassi’s spirit started to deteriorate, with no appearance before a Judge; no access to an attorney and no ability to call anyone in the "outside world" that could help him.


Every inmate at the Northwest detention Center gets an initial free 3 minute local phone call which costs $1 USD/minute there after. Unfortunately, Diego had no money, no access to the Internet, and had no idea what was going on. He did find out that he could work at the Detention Center for a $1 USD/day, but decided to help other inmates by translating for them because he spoke Spanish, English, and Portuguese.


Simonassi was finally able to contact Tanijo who agreed to take the case on pro-bono. After entering formal appearance in the case, Tanijo tried to negotiate Mr. Simonassi's release, but the Immigration Customs enforcement (ICE) was only willing to release him either on payment of a $7,500 bond or if he paid for the full fare of an airplane ticket flying directly out of the United States. 


After a media blitz that covered the manner of Simonassi's arrest and questioned whether his ongoing detention was proportional to his mistake of neglecting to acquire a Canadian visa, Simonassi was released. He had been forced to spend several weeks in custody where he said he felt like a criminal. 


Subsequent to Simonassi's release, Tanijo helped him acquire short term living arrangements, and attempted to acquire a Canadian visa within the 30 day parole that the US Government had allowed him.


More to follow…..


Steve Tanijo, Esq

Law Office of Steve Tanijo PLLC


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