Report: Oregon judge may have helped undocumented immigrant avoid ICE agents
PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) - The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland says someone in a courtroom at the Multnomah County Justice Center helped an undocumented immigrant avoid capture by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Diddier Pacheco-Salazar was in a court hearing on Jan. 27 at the Justice Center for DUII and reckless driving, according to his defense attorney John Schlosser. Schlosser said he was waiting for his client to get out of the courtroom, along with four ICE agents.
Billy Williams, the U.S. attorney in the District of Oregon, said those agents targeted Pacheco-Salazar for his criminal history. They had his identity, date of birth, photo, and knew he was in the country illegally.
Pacheco-Salazar never came out of the courtroom.
“There are two doors, one that a judge exits through and one that individual inmates are led through. So, obviously he was allowed to exit the courtroom and facility through one of those doors without being detected by the ICE agents,” Williams said.
Schlosser would not comment on what happened inside the courtroom. Williams said he does not know exactly what happened inside.
KATU’s news partners at Willamette Week are reporting a circuit court judicial referee named Monica Herranz allegedly helped Pacheco-Salazar elude agents by letting him exit a private entrance used by judges.
“Obviously, someone let him out knowing ICE was there, because there was a courtroom staffer who had originally saw the agents in the hallway before the proceedings started who made the comment something to the effect, ‘You guys are evil,'" Williams said. “So, it was clear that someone associated with the court knew they were there.”
Judge Nan Waller and Trial Court Administrator Barbara Marcille spoke briefly on the phone with KATU on Tuesday. They would not comment on what happened inside the courtroom. Waller said the incident is under internal investigation.
Just two days before this, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements. Judge Waller said, at that time, they had not been able to instruct judges or staff on what to do in scenarios like this. Since then, court staff and judges have been told not to provide assistance to ICE that would not be publicly available, but they cannot impede ICE agents from operating in the courthouse.
Williams met with Judge Waller and the parties involved last week. He says ICE decided against a criminal investigation. He said there was no referral to the Oregon State Bar either.
“I told them that upon first hearing about the incident that I was very concerned and troubled by it, that I thought it was inappropriate, I thought it was unprofessional. I strongly believe that it cannot happen again,” Williams said.
If it happens again, Williams added that the outcome may be different. Next time there may be a criminal investigation.
“I felt that it was inappropriate and delegitimizes the work of ICE agents who are out there doing their jobs,” Williams said.
Schlosser told KATU Pacheco-Salazar was picked up by ICE agents on Feb. 10 outside the courthouse. He is currently being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Washington.
Judge Waller said the Multnomah County Circuit Court asked ICE to consider the courthouse a sensitive location in order to limit ICE enforcement action there. She said they do not want people to fear coming to the courthouse.
“Judicial officials shouldn't be put into this position by immigration in the first place,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director of the ACLU of Oregon.
Similar to the court, dos Santos says the judicial system suffers if ICE agents can detain people at the courthouse. He says ICE should not be allowed to show up at the courthouse.
Williams said it was unlikely ICE would consider a courthouse to be a sensitive location, but that decision is up to it.