Francisco Aguirre, an undocumented immigrant, has been staying in Portland’s Augustana Lutheran Church for over a week and is starting to gain support from local residents. CBS News says that the immigration activist has lived in the United States for almost two decades; however, he risks being deported to El Salvador due to a previous deportation and an old drug conviction. Aguirre says he intends to remain in the church until his immigration case has been resolved.
Aguirre has two children, both of whom are citizens of the United States, and runs a non-profit organization in Portland. He says he was innocent of the drug charge and is disputing the case. Federal officials typically do not like entering churches to arrest people, which is why more and more undocumented immigrants are staying in churches for sanctuary while Congress continues to dither over the issue of immigration reform.
Aguirre is being supported by a number of other churches and local leaders, including Charlie Hales, the mayor of Portland. Local leaders and churches say that Aguirre’s status as a family man and an organizer of labor and immigrant rights for ten years mean that he should be allowed to remain in the United States.
“Francisco Aguirre has been a community leader in Portland and an important voice in issues of equity and immigrant rights,” Hales says. “I believe Francisco should remain in the United States, and in Portland, until his case can reach a humane conclusion.”