Did judge help immigrant escape ICE agents waiting outside courtroom? Federal prosecutor complains

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A federal prosecutor’s complaint has led to an internal investigation into whether an Oregon judge helped an immigrant avoid arrest by immigration agents waiting outside the courtroom.

U.S. Attorney Billy Williams told court officials that a DUI defendant entered the courtroom of Judge Monica Herranz of Portland on Jan. 27, but he did not come out through the usual entrance, report CNN, Fox 12 Oregon and the Willamette Week. Williams acted after a complaint by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Courthouse officials are investigating whether Herranz let the defendant, Diddier Pacheco Salazar, a 22-year-old Mexican national, leave through a private entrance used by court employees. “I was troubled because, on the face of it, what I heard sounded like potential federal criminal law violations and/or ethical violations,” Williams told the Willamette Week. “Generally, we’re talking about obstruction of justice.”

Williams decided he wouldn’t open a criminal investigation or pursue an ethics complaint, according to the Willamette Week. Instead, Williams and officials with ICE and the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility met with court personnel to discuss the issue over lunch.

Salazar was arrested by ICE agents outside the courthouse two weeks later when the Mexican immigrant left a follow-up court hearing.

Herranz is an appointed court referee who handles lower level criminal, civil and family court cases. Salazar previously had been deported and was subject to immigration arrest because a DUI offender is considered to be a risk to public safety, according to ICE and Williams.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told CNN in a statement that uncertainty regarding immigration policy is creating fear and concern in communities throughout the state. “Trust in public institutions is undermined when Oregonians seek assistance from public officials but are instead met with suspicion from those they expect to help them,” she said.

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