PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An immigrant activist who took refuge at an Oregon church to avoid deportation and was arrested this week on a federal charge of illegal re-entry has been temporarily released on a federal judge’s order.
Judge Janice Stewart on Friday ordered Francisco Aguirre to be released while he’s awaiting the start of his trial on Jan. 13. Aguirre pleaded not guilty to the charge in court.
Aquirre’s supporters confirmed Friday night that he has been released and is returned to Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church, his refuge since September.
Aguirre returned to the church after making a brief statement to supporters outside the Multnomah County Justice Center.
“When I was inside,” he said, with a dramatic pause, “I met so many brothers that this injustice system has put in jail. They have similar cases. They get picked up on the street, in their homes, ICE showed up with no warrant, they get detained. Now they are in the process of being deported, of being separated from their kids. ‘Don’t forget us,’ they say, “because we are here.’ So we have to keep fighting for our brothers and sisters, because they can’t do anything. But we can.”
Aguirre came to the U.S. from El Salvador nearly two decades ago. He was arrested Thursday at a county court. He was there to settle a case of driving under the influence.
The federal arrest stems from a past criminal case: Aguirre was deported in 2000 after a drug conviction; the government says he then unlawfully re-entered the country.
KOIN 6 News contributed to this report.