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Francisco Aguirre in Augustana Lutheran church
Helen Silvis Of The Skanner News
Published: 07 November 2014

Francisco Aguirre took refuge in Augustana Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland Sept. 19 after Immigration agents came to his door. Photo: Helen Silvis

UPDATE: Press release from activists supporting Francisco Aguirre:

Today a federal judge ordered the temporary release of community labor leader Francisco Aguirre. Aguirre spent 45 days in sanctuary with the support of hundreds of community leaders from faith, labor and immigrant rights organizations. He was arrested yesterday after he appeared at the Clackamas County Courthouse to resolve his DUI charge.

Judge Janice Stewart offered that he will be released before midnight tonight.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed ICE has lifted its detainer on Aguirre, meaning his removal from the U.S. is on hold pending the outcome of his federal case.

“Today is an incredible day of justice for Francisco and his family. We applaud the judge’s decision, and it is a good feeling to know that in Oregon, you can find justice and a humane approach to treat our brothers and sisters as they deserve. We will not stop until there is not one more deportation,” said Pastor Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church, where Francisco stayed in sanctuary.

“We are very thankful that justice was served today and that Francisco can be reunited with me and his three children tonight. We are also hopeful that ICE will respect his U-visa process and that my husband can come home and be with his family in peace, without fear of persecution from ICE,” said Rosa Navarro, on behalf on the Aguirre family.

Immigrant rights activist Francisco Aguirre was arrested Thursday when he left sanctuary to attend a court hearing on a DUII citation. A rally to support him will be held 12:45, Friday, Nov. 7 at Portland’s  Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, 1000 SW 3rd Ave., in  downtown Portland.

Acting on a warrant issued by US Attorney Amanda Marshall, sheriffs arrested Aguirre on charges of entering the country illegally 11 years ago.  He came to authorities attention after getting a DUII citation. He went to court to enter a diversion program for the DUII. His blood alcohol was .12 above the legal limit of 0.8, the Oregonian reported.

 “ICE says it has priorities in its enforcement, but we have witnessed  the ruthless prioritization of Francisco in what can only be retaliation for his role as a labor and civil rights leader in our community,” said Rae Anne Lafrenz, coordinator of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, in a statement. “ ICE and  its out-of-control behavior is a greater threat to our safety in Portland than Francisco ever will be. It is ICE that should be on trial, not this father and community servant.”

An organizer with VOZ Workers Rights Education Project, Aguirre has been living in Augustana Lutheran Church  in Northeast Portland, after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents visited his home, Sept. 19.  

Supporters say he should be allowed to pursue a pending U-visa application. But the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has now cancelled his appointment.

Mayor Charlie Hales issued a statement in support of Aguirre, saying

“I have been informed that Francisco Aguirre was arrested today in Clackamas County and is being held, while federal agents plan to take him into custody.

Mr. Aguirre was not in court today because of his immigration status. He was in a Clackamas County Court on an accusation of driving under the influence. But he was taken into custody on the likelihood that he will be deported.

As I stated this summer, 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 upmost importance to a wide array of residents. He clearly loves this community and fights to make it better. And for this, we are grateful.

Naturally, I have faith that the U.S. Attorney for Oregon will handle this case in a just manner. I do not presuppose the outcome. I also do not know if Mr. Aguirre should be deported. A court will decide that. But I do know that our community is better off for having him here, in Oregon, with his family, working hard and paying his taxes, and speaking out on issues that impact our community.

I stand with mayors across the nation who are calling on Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform. This case, and the way it has been handled, is a glaring example of why that reform is needed right now.”

Aguirre, who has been living with his wife and two children in Oregon, was taken to the Multnomah County Justice Center. He says he will go on hunger strike  until he is released, and in solidarity with the women fasting in front of the white house for administrative relief.

Pastor Mark Knutson of Augustana Lutheran Church, said the faith community is called on to welcome everyone and to keep families together.

 “We know that Francisco has made mistakes in the past, but he has tried to change and has proven through his work as a community organizer that he holds the same common values of dignity and respect for all,” Knutson said in a statement.

Aguirre was deported in 2000 after being convicted  in a drug trafficking case. He has said he opened his home to people who were selling drugs because they were homeless. He says he didn’t know they had drugs and he did not understand all the ramifications of  the case because his English was not then fluent.

Unidos con Francisco and the Augustana Lutheran Church have planned an “Interfaith service for freedom” this Sunday November 9th at the church, 2710 NE 14th Ave, at 6:00 pm. Media can reserve parking spaces for news vehicles by contacting the church in advance: office@augustana.org.

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