NEWS ABOUT CATALINA
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NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Queens immigrant steps on Greyhound bus bound for Seattle, winds up in ICE custody, separated from his family for 23 harrowing days
He hopped on a Greyhound bus to Seattle — and rolled right into the custody of ICE agents at the Canadian border.
A cross-country trip came to an abrupt and shocking end for Queens immigrant Alfredo Flores, who spent 23 days in custody after his bus unexpectedly crossed the border near Buffalo last month.
“Going to Canada was not something that I was expecting,” said Flores, 36, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and married father of three.
“I feel really let down because I’ve used Greyhound buses before, and nothing like this ever happened.”
Flores’ ordeal began on July 15 when he left his wife and three kids in Jackson Heights for what was supposed to be a month-long construction job with his brother in Seattle.
The trip marked the first time Flores had taken the bus to Seattle. He had no reason to think it would cross into Canada, in part because his brother had taken the same bus and never ventured over the border.
A map of the route on the Greyhound website shows the bus heading west through Pennsylvania, passing through Chicago and zooming across the northern states far below the Canadian border.
A Greyhound spokeswoman didn’t return a request for comment. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reps also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Flores recalled spotted the signs referencing the northern border, and said he initially thought nothing of it. By the time he realized the bus had entered Canada, it was too late.
“I got scared, but there was nothing I could do,” he said Monday during a press conference in Jackson Heights.
Flores was unable to produce a passport when approached by Canadian officials. All he had on him was a U.S. driver’s license and a Mexican driver’s license.
The Canadians immediately turned him over to ICE agents.
His wife Wendy Valverde said she broke down when she learned he was in federal custody.
“I felt very lost. I didn’t know what to do,” said Valverde, 33, a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Flores, who arrived in the U.S. 10 years ago, had no deportation order. He said his lone arrest was for opening an emergency door inside a subway station.
The desperate dad languished in a federal detention center in upstate Batavia as his family rushed to raise enough money to post his $10,000 bond.
With the help of Catalina Cruz, a former Dreamer and Democratic candidate for the state Assembly who lives in the neighborhood, Valverde raised enough cash and hired a lawyer.
Cruz, speaking at the press conference Monday, said the bus operator was to blame for the ordeal.
“I absolutely think that they should be held liable,” Cruz said, referring to Greyhound. “I absolutely think that they should be protecting the folks that ride their buses.”
A Greyhound spokeswoman told The News in an email the bus company has a schedule that travels from New York to Seattle that stops in Toronto as well as London, Ontario, before it continues to Detroit and then Seattle, and that “we believe this is the schedule on which the customer was traveling.
“On every schedule that crosses the border, there’s a mandatory transportation check. Customers are required to have a passport or proper documentation authorizing them to enter the other country, as with any transportation carrier crossing borders.”
ICE reps didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Flores was sprung from custody on Aug. 7. But he and his wife had another scare on the return trip home when border agents boarded their bus and demanded to see paperwork.
The agents left Flores alone after he produced his court papers. At the time, he was on a bus operated by a company other than Greyhound.
Flores is still not in the clear. He’s due in court on Aug. 21.
For now, he’s just focused on spending time with his wife and kids ages 5, 4 and 2.
“I’m so happy right now,” he said. “I see my children, I play