YAKIMA, Wash.-- Imagine being locked in jail, mistaken for someone else, then almost deported. A Yakima County man knows just how that feels after he was flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The problem is he was born and raised here.
Jose Gutierrez is locked up in the Yakima County Jail right now, waiting for his court date in a separate incident. But this week, those problems took a back seat to a surprising turn of events.
"Jose called and said that he was going to get deported and we were kind of confused because we just went to his court date like last week," said Leonie Gutierrez, Jose's cousin.
Jose was mistaken for someone else with the same name, and he and his family believed he was about to get deported to Mexico.
"We called like six different people and basically everybody kept telling me the same thing, oh that sucks, I'm sorry, can't help you," she said.
Gutierrez says they finally got help from a lawyer who told them to go to the local Homeland Security office to fight it.
Finally, ICE officials told them the mistake was made and the hold would be removed from his record. But after a day and a half of stress and anxiety, Gutierrez wonders how this could have even happened.
"If this wouldn't have got handled, I mean, that would have been really bad. He would have been over in Mexico not knowing what to do, no money," she said.
ICE officials did not talk on camera but say they handle over 400,000 people a year so mistakes can happen. But they say there are several checks in place to catch it, before a U.S. citizen is sent packing.
And in this case, they say Jose was not even close to leaving the country.
It's important to remember that immigration holds don't mean you'll be deported immediately. Criminal cases must be completed beforehand and even then, there's a lot of time before you'll be taken away.
But, if this happens to you or someone you know you can contact ICE's Law Enforcement Support Center at (855) 448-6903.