The U.S. Department of Justice has dropped a charge of illegal re-entry against Francisco Aguirre, an immigrant activist who hid in an Oregon church to avoid deportation.
A judge dismissed the criminal charge on May 27, but Aguirre could still face deportation.
Aguirre came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador in the 1990s. He was deported in 2000 after being convicted for selling heroin and cocaine.
He returned to the U.S.—again as an undocumented immigrant—and became an activist for immigrants’ rights and ran a non-profit for day laborers. But he was arrested for driving under the influence in 2014, which put him back on the radar of immigration authorities.
When immigration authorities came to his home, he sought refuge at a basement apartment at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland. He came out of hiding to appear in court in late 2014, and his trial was set to begin on June 21.
An attorney for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network told the Associated Press that ICE agents told Aguirre that his deportation case is being fast-tracked so it won’t face an immigration judge. Aguirre's son was murdered in February in El Salvador.
Aguirre has two children who are U.S. citizens. He is beloved in Portland, where his supporters are planning a rally for him on Sunday.
In 2014, Mayor Charlie Hales called him an "important voice on the issues of equality and immigration rights.”