An illegal alien in Portland, Oregon, who was on trial for DUII, escaped arrest by federal immigration officials after being escorted out a back entrance to the courthouse by the presiding judge in his case, witnesses say. The judge, Monica Herranz, sits on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association.
As reported originally by Willamette Week, multiple sources confirmed that “at least one defendant in the courtroom that day avoided federal immigration agents by leaving through an entrance usually reserved for court employees.”
Multiple media reports state that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were at the Multnomah County Courthouse the day that Diddier Pacheco Salazar, a 22-year-old Mexican national in the United States illegally, faced trial for reckless driving and driving under the influence of intoxicants. Salazar was arrested January 1 and faced his first trial on January 3, at which he pleaded not guilty. At a followup hearing on January 27, he and his court-appointed attorney, John Schlosser, changed his plea to guilty in exchange for entry into the state alcohol diversion program.
It was at this January 27 hearing that ICE agents were waiting outside the courtroom. Schlosser told local media that they knew the agents were there waiting for Salazar. He said, “I prepped my client. I said, ‘I don’t know if they’re going to pick you up outside or what, but here’s how to prepare.’ After the court appearance, I went out in the hallway and sat. My client never came out. I can’t say that I’m surprised he didn’t come out, but I gave him his options, and assume he had to have been escorted out some other way.”
Schlosser conveniently fails to explain where his client could have ended up. The judge in the case, however, is under internal review and could face disciplinary action. Her boss, Multnomah County Circuit Presiding Judge Nan Waller, says that she is gathering information for possible disciplinary action against Herranz. Herranz has declined any public comment so far.
The incident came to light when U.S. Attorney Billy Williams was told by the ICE agents how Salazar had escaped. In interviews with local media, Williams insists that the only logical explanation is that “Herranz or a member of her staff helped Salazar to leave through another door.”
The courtrooms at the Multnomah County Courthouse all follow a similar plan, with three doors—one for the public, one private entrance for the judge, and one for inmates to enter the court after being transported from the jail. By process of elimination, if Salazar did not leave through the public door, and was presumably unable to use the door dedicated to inmates and law enforcement, the only other option is that he left via the private judge entrance.
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Waller told Willamette Week that court staff remain concerned over President Trump’s deportation orders. “I don’t think we can reassure people [to come to court despite the ICE presence] when it’s not something we can have control over,” he said. “We don’t want to do something that will give a false reassurance and then have something happen.”
Federal authorities, including Williams, the Department of Justice, and ICE, all agreed not to pursue a criminal investigation into the matter. Instead, ICE, Williams, Waller and other local and federal officials have come together for several discussions about the matter, and how generally to handle ICE agents in county court rooms.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown recently signed an executive order barring any public official from assisting federal agents in their efforts to arrest and deport illegal aliens, a point that was brought up at the most recent lunch meeting between federal and court officials. Williams continues to point out, however, that justice is supposed to be blind. He told a local TV station, “When you’re talking about the judicial system – whether it’s federal or by state – you have an expectation that people are going to abide by the law and not take steps based on their own motivations, their own politics – whatever the motivation was.”
Ironically, the risks taken by Herranz to protect Salazar were meaningless. Two weeks later, he was arrested by ICE anyway, and is currently housed in a holding facility in Tacoma, Washington.