Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak
Francisco Aguirre, the man profiled in a CatlinSpeak Citizen Story last month, was arrested Thursday at a hearing on his pending DUII case. Fortunately for Aguirre, he was released just one day later at the order of Federal Judge Janice Stewart.
In August, after Aguirre was charged with a DUII due to a blood alcohol content level of .12% (the legal limit is .08%), he took sanctuary in the Augustana Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland. He moved into the church after Immigration Officials showed up at his house wanting to arrest and deport him, but lacked the necessary warrant.
Aguirre left the safety of Augustana Lutheran church for the first time since Sept. 19 on Thursday in order to attend a hearing on his pending DUII case.
Upon arrival at Clackamas County Circuit Court, Aguirre addressed a crowd of around 50 supporters, including Pastor Mark Knutson from Augustana Lutheran Church and Rabbi Joey Wolf from Havurah Shalom.
Speaking through a bullhorn, Aguirre noted his compliance: “Here I am, doing the right thing. Doing what they ask me to do. They say, ‘Francisco need to show up at court.’ Here I am. I’m not hiding.”
After entering the courtroom, Aguirre was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. He proceeded to plead guilty to his DUII charge, then asked to be released rather than await his January 13 trial date (on his unlawful reentry charge) in jail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Nyhus, who is prosecuting the case, asked that Aguirre remain in jail, citing his previous drug dealing conviction from 1999 and the fact that he is at risk to flee. Aguirre’s defense attorney, Ellen Pitcher, noted that he was unlikely to run, noted that he was “kidnapped, tortured, and otherwise abused as a child” and had “no intention of taking flight to El Salvador.” Aguirre also stated in his interview with CatlinSpeak that he came to the United States to escape the violence and persecution in his home country and does not wish to return.
Aguirre spent Thursday night in jail but was released Friday, at the order of Federal Judge Janice Stewart, on the condition that he stay within Portland until his trial. He returned to Augustana Friday night, and continues to take sanctuary there.
Thursday night, prior to Aguirre’s release, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announced: “Francisco Aguirre is an important voice on the issues of equity and immigration rights. Our community benefits from the work done by Francisco and the Voz Workers Rights Education Project. Francisco speaks out on the issues that are of utmost importance to a wide array of residents. He clearly loves this community and fights to make it better. And for this, we are grateful.”
Aguirre has a pending U-visa application and will remain in Portland at least until trial.