The article below was originally published in the Oregonian, about the support of Portland Mayor Hales coming out in support of Francisco Aguirre. You can support Francisco by signing his petition here or supporting by making a donation here.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announced his support Tuesday for Francisco Aguirre, a local labor activist originally from El Salvador who took refuge Friday in a Northeast Portland church to avoid deportation.
The 35-year-old Fairview resident has been staying at Augustana Lutheran Church after he said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents went to his home to detain him. ICE agents do not make arrests in sensitive locations such as schools and churches, according to agency officials.
Aguirre was involved in the Workers’ Organizing Committee that went on to found Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project, a nonprofit organization that mostly helps male Latino immigrants find work in Portland. He currently serves as the MLK Jr. Worker Center coordinator for the group.
On Tuesday Hales said Aguirre has been a community leader in Portland.
“Our community benefits from the work done by Francisco and by the Voz Workers Rights Education Project,” the statement said. “And while immigration is a federal issue, I believe Francisco should remain in the United States, and in Portland, until his case can reach a humane conclusion.”
Hales also said mayors across the nation are calling on Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform.
President Barack Obama announced that he wouldn’t take any executive action on immigration legislation until after the November election. Since then churches elsewhere in the country have been offering sanctuary to illegal immigrants.
Aguirre was deported to El Salvador in 2000 after a conviction for drug trafficking offenses, ICE said in a statement. Aguirre came to the agency’s attention again in August after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Clackamas County, ICE said.
Aguirre’s lawyer, Stephen Manning, said Francisco has applied for a U Visa, which provides legal status to victims of certain crimes who help authorities investigate crimes. He said the application and review process takes months.
“ICE should give him the opportunity to go through that process before actively trying to deport him,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to deport him if he’s going to get approved.”
— Kasia Hall