Tourist detained for staying in U.S. half hour too long freed

SEATTLE -- The South American man who was locked up in a federal detention center for over extending his stay in the U.S by just 30 minutes was released on Thursday.

Diego Farre spent nearly three weeks in the detention center before he was finally released Thursday evening.

He said he's glad the long immigration ordeal appears to be over and he can continue his journey.

A relieved and tired Farre spoke to KOMO News less than two hours after being released from custody.

"Like, today was really good news when they took me to the place called intake and told me I was free," he said.

Farre came to the United States from Uruguay without any money on a 6-month visa last December to backpack across the west coast, volunteering and exploring a different way of life.

When his time was up on June 14, he went to cross the border into Canada, but didn't know he needed a visa to get in. Authorities at the Peace Arch crossing turned him back to the U.S., but his visa had already expired 30 minutes earlier.

"When they told me I was arrested, I didn't know what to think," Farre said.

Immigration attorney Steve Tanijo heard about the case and stepped up to help.

"Yes, it was a mistake and he should have done things properly. But the punishment did not fit the mistake that he did," he said.

Tanijo believes KOMO's coverage of the incident helped lead to Farre's release.

"Without your help, I think it would have been a little longer for them to figure it out," he said.

Farre now has 30 days to get his affairs together and leave the U.S. on his own. He plans to talk with the Canadian consulate to see if it can expedite his visa since there's currently a 35 day waiting list.

Farre doesn't know how long he'll stay up north once the proper paperwork is in place, and for now he's just enjoying the journey.

"Just a little bit of fresh air," he said.

Farre said he plans to eventually return to Uruguay. He had a chance to talk with his family Thursday to let them know he was oklay.