5 steps to end the assaults on immigrants in the coming decade

As this decade comes to a close, it is heartbreaking to review the damage done to immigrant rights and civil liberties. Especially in recent years. U.S. immigration policy has prismed into three prongs that work to deny immigrants from having equal access to justice. 

  1. Increased public stigmatization and criminalization of the human act of migration. 
  2. Expansion of the detention apparatus which cages immigrant children and adults. 
  3. Elimination of meaningful immigrant access to courts and lawyers. 

Refugees are being deported back to danger. Children are torn from the arms of their parents. Entire communities destroyed. 

Innovation Law Lab is a nonprofit organization that harnesses technology, law, and activism to advance immigrant justice. Together, we can win the fight for immigrant justice and inclusion. 

1. Move lawyers and activists into position at the hotspots.

Where the threat is grave and humans are forced to flee, get lawyers and activists on-the-ground to work (and work hard). Within days of the start of Trump’s horrific “Remain in Mexico” program that intentionally forced those fleeing persecution to live on the streets of some of the most dangerous cities in the world, our team was on-the-ground; lawyers and activists gathering intelligence, offering free legal help, and building a transnational support network for those stuck in perpetual danger. Innovation Law Lab organized volunteers with our regional partners to represent and defend asylum-seekers marooned far from home and on the doorsteps of safety. 

2. Deploy technology that harnesses the power of lawyers & activists

Technology can help lawyers and activists scale their ability to create more just pathways. The situation at the US-Mexico border is hard to fathom. Since October 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have unlawfully prevented thousands of refugees from accessing the U.S. asylum system.  Even though people are fleeing extreme violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with valid claims under international and domestic law, CBP has created a crisis where vital documents are destroyed, children and families are detained in inhumane conditions, and the immigration court system is dysfunctional to the point of collapse. 

As a nonprofit that consists of activists, lawyers, and software engineers, Innovation Law Lab is uniquely positioned to develop tools that empower immigrants and their advocates in moments of crisis. Innovation Law Lab’s new tech tools help migrants better navigate the harrowing journey north and the complex immigration system that awaits them in America.

3. File lawsuits that defend activism in motion.

The courts can channel the power of activists working for just and fair outcomes. After Trump announced a rule that would deny immigrants’ fair access to health insurance (!) while simultaneously shutting down our nation’s long-standing tradition of family reunification, Innovation Law Lab filed a lawsuit in federal court to defend the activists and people in motion like our colleagues Latino Network.

Just hours before the health care ban was scheduled to go into effect, during an emergency Saturday hearing, a federal judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the government. We were recently granted a preliminary injunction halting the policy from going into effect as we continue to litigate. By litigating strategically, we are able to keep harmful immigration policies from going into effect. 

4. Play the Long Game

We have to play the long game to permanently exit this state of urgency. The President’s unrelenting assaults on immigrant communities have already taken a toll on our communities and economy, both locally and nationwide. Increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement actions have caused many law-abiding residents to fear sending their children to school or even leaving the house to buy groceries.

Since 2017, for example, ICE has executed or planned enforcement actions at state courthouses that serve nearly millions of people  As one school superintendent explained, “[a]lmost everybody in town is impacted” by the fear of immigration raids. Within weeks of Trump’s election, Innovation Law Lab designed and began organizing a long game of developing organizational infrastructure to build permanent pathways to immigrant inclusion. Called the Rights Architecture, it is a holistic system that allows activists to self-organize, identify spaces for collaboration, and rapidly foster innovation. It has successfully created the nation’s first statewide universal representation program for immigrants facing imminent deportation called Equity Corps of Oregon

5. Give to Support the Work

Not only is our small team of lawyers, activists, and software engineers working to defend against Trump’s anti-immigrant attacks, Innovation Law Lab is at the forefront of creating universal representation programs for immigrants facing deportation proceedings. 

Communities around the country and along our nation’s borders are coming together to create an accessible support system for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Innovation Law Lab is here to design the programs, technology, and forward-thinking legal strategies. As a nonprofit organization, we depend on your philanthropic support to continue this important work! 

Oregon Immigrant Rights Organizations File Amicus Brief In Support of State of Washington’s Request to Halt Courthouse ICE Arrests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2020 

MEDIA CONTACT:
Ramon Valdez, Innovation Law Lab, ramon@innovationlawlab.org, m – 971.238-1804
Doug Brown, ACLU of Oregon, dbrown@aclu-or.org, m – 734.239.2706

Portland, Ore.一Yesterday evening, a broad coalition of community-based advocacy, legal defense, policy development, and social services organizations filed a brief in federal district court in Washington in which they describe how ICE’s terrifying arrest tactics in state courthouses across the Pacific Northwest limit access to courts and fundamentally compromises our justice system.

The organizations, working in both Oregon and Southwest Washington, filed an amicus brief (meaning “friend of the court”) in support of the State of Washington’s effort to ban Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from conducting arrests at state courthouses, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington.

The organizations describe first-hand accounts of litigants, witnesses, victims, and other community members choosing not to file protective orders, seek marriage licenses, serve as witnesses, or protect their workplace rights due to fear of ICE activity; driving them further into the shadows of civil society. On several occasions, volunteer legal observers have witnessed and captured video footage of ICE engaging in racial profiling and using physical force against individuals, their families, and bystanders, often in the middle of a pending case. 

“ICE’s unlawful and destructive courthouse arrest policy has fundamentally compromised our court system and prevented citizens and noncitizens alike from seeking justice,” said Nadia Dahab, Senior Staff Attorney with Innovation Law Lab.  “In Oregon, we have seen the impacts of this policy in communities statewide. We are optimistic that the federal district court in Washington, like our state supreme court, will put an end to it.”

The organizations include Causa Oregon, Adelante Mujeres, Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), Northwest Workers’ Justice Project (NWJP), Immigration Counseling Service (ICS), Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), Latino Network, VIVA Inclusive Migrant Network (VIVA), Pueblo Unido, American Immigration Lawyers Association of Oregon (AILA Oregon), Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Rural Organizing Project (ROP), and Unite Oregon.  The organizations are represented by Innovation Law Lab, the ACLU of Oregon, and Miller Nash Graham & Dunn.

After years of ICE agents stalking court-goers in Oregon, the Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, Martha Walters, approved a new court rule in November 2019 that prohibits warrantless, civil arrests in Oregon courts.  

In December 2019, State of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit to halt ICE arrests in and around Washington’s state courthouses.  Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Washington requested a preliminary injunction, asking the court to halt courthouse arrests entirely while the suit is pending.  The amicus brief filed by Oregon’s immigrant rights advocacy groups supports Washington’s request for an immediate statewide injunction barring ICE arrests at and around all state courts. The ICE Field Office in Seattle oversees the arrest practices of ICE agents in both Washington and Oregon.

Washington’s lawsuit follows similar suits in New York and Massachusetts, where federal courts have issued statewide injunctions barring ICE from making arrests of individuals when they seek to use courthouse services.  The lawsuits have been filed in response to ICE’s increased targeting of state courthouses for immigration enforcement, often by means that are disruptive to pending judicial proceedings.  

The Washington Supreme Court has also posted a proposed trial court rule, currently open for public comment, that is similar to the rule issued by Oregon’s Chief Justice.  The public comment period on Washington’s proposed rule closes on February 3, 2020.

Read the group’s amici brief online here: http://bit.ly/oregon-ready-amicus

Video of ICE arrests at Oregon courts in Clackamas, Clatsop, Multnomah, and Washington counties is online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MCSWthEFqU&feature=youtu.be

Civil Rights Coalition Successfully Blocks Trump Administration

For Immediate Release            

PRESS CONTACTS:

American Immigration Lawyers Association: Belle Woods, bwoods@aila.org

Innovation Law Lab: Ramon Valdez, ramon@innovationlawlab.org 

Martina Bialek, Communications Manager, martina@latnet.org    

Justice Action Center: Christine Chen, christine@christinechen.com

Civil Rights Coalition Successfully Blocks Trump Administration’s Latest Attempt to Implement Health Care Ban

Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 – Today, litigators from the Justice Action Center (JAC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and Innovation Law Lab, with pro bono counsel Sidley Austin LLP and Latino Network as the organizational plaintiff, welcomed the Ninth Circuit 2-1 decision to refuse the federal government an administrative stay pending appeal of the preliminary nationwide injunction in Doe v. Trump. The administration had sought an emergency stay of the injunction granted on November 26, 2019, by the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR. The stay would have immediately implemented President Trump’s October 4 proclamation requiring legal immigrants to prove they hold an “approved” health insurance plan, or can pay for health care out of pocket, in order to be allowed entry to the U.S. This unconstitutional health care ban would affect approximately 375,000 people each year, immediately separate families from loved ones, harm businesses seeking to employ international talent, and undermine our nation’s commitment to equal rights. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR, and the proclamation remains enjoined. 

A temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR, on November 2, 2019, had stopped the federal government from implementing the policy. During that month, approximately 25,000 visas were granted that would otherwise have been denied. The preliminary injunction issued November 26, 2019, solidified that win. The rejection of the stay now means that the district court’s order will remain in effect for now, unless the federal government seeks and obtains a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The government also filed a non-emergency request for a stay which will be heard on January 9, 2020 in San Francisco. Meanwhile the underlying lawsuit will move forward in District Court. 

Background

On October 4, 2019, President Trump signed a proclamation barring qualified immigrants from receiving visas unless they could prove they would be covered by “approved” health insurance within 30 days of arriving in the U.S., or are healthy and wealthy enough to pay for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs” upon arrival. The proclamation, labeled a ban because of its tremendous reach and impact, limited “approved” health insurance to plans that many immigrants do not qualify for; are unavailable in large states like New York and California; or would be impossible to obtain within 30 days of arrival. The proclamation was to go into effect on November 3, 2019.

For PDF Version: download

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Civil Rights Coalition Successfully Enjoins Presidential Health Insurance Proclamation


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


November 26, 2019  – Today, litigators from the Justice Action Center (JAC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the Innovation Law Lab, with pro bono counsel Sidley Austin LLP, and Latino Network as the organizational plaintiff, obtained a preliminary nationwide injunction in Doe v. Trump, thereby ensuring that the administration’s attempt to ban immigrants based on their ability to obtain health insurance upon arrival to the U.S. will not be implemented while litigation continues. With this injunction, the court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted in the absence of an injunction. The health insurance proclamation is an unconstitutional effort that would permanently separate families and damage employers; a coalition of state’s Attorney Generals filed an amicus brief describing the harm it would cause. 

“During this Thanksgiving week, we are so grateful for this court ruling that will keep families together and allow other families to reunite. This decision is an important check on the Trump administration’s effort to rewrite our nation’s immigration and health care laws in violation of the boundaries set out in the Constitution,” says Esther Sung, Senior Litigator at the Justice Action Center.

Jesse Bless, Director of Federal Litigation for AILA stated, “The egregiousness of the Proclamation demanded urgent action to save so many affected immigrants and their loved ones. We are tremendously grateful that our efforts have stopped the President from harming so many immigrant families.”

“Today’s decision protects our Nation’s immigrant families from suffering irreparable harm as a result of the President’s harmful and unlawful proclamation. We are encouraged by the Court’s decision to enforce the rule of law, which does not allow the President to rewrite our immigration laws this way,” added Nadia Dahab, Senior Staff Attorney at Innovation Law Lab.

“We are deeply grateful we had an opportunity to be heard and relieved by the court’s decision. Our families belong together and our program participants deserve to have their dignity and rights respected, no matter where they come from. Today we can assure our families, staff, and program participants that for now their families are safe from the effects of this discriminatory and abusive health care ban,” said Carmen Rubio, Latino Network’s Executive Director.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR, on November 2, 2019, had stopped the federal government from implementing the policy. During that month, approximately 25,000 visas were granted that would otherwise have been denied. The preliminary injunction now solidifies that bar, ensuring the administration cannot move forward with this ban while the litigation continues. 

The government has the ability to seek immediate review of the injunction by the Ninth Circuit while the underlying case moves forward in the District Court.

Background
On October 4, 2019, President Trump signed a proclamation barring qualified immigrants from receiving visas unless they could prove they would be covered by “approved” health insurance within 30 days of arriving in the U.S., or are healthy and wealthy enough to pay for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs” upon arrival. The proclamation, labeled a ban because of its tremendous reach and impact, limited “approved” health insurance to plans that many immigrants do not qualify for; are unavailable in large states like New York and California; or would be impossible to obtain within 30 days of arrival. The proclamation was to go into effect on November 3, 2019.

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PRESS CONTACTS:
Justice Action Center: Christine Chen, christine@christinechen.com
American Immigration Lawyers Association: Belle Woods, bwoods@aila.org
Innovation Law Lab: Ramon Valdez, ramon@innovationlawlab.org 
Martina Bialek, Communications Manager, martina@latnet.org

AG Rosenblum, Advocates Applaud Chief Justice Walters for Issuing Rule to Protect Oregon Courthouses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2019 

CONTACT:
Ramon Valdez, Innovation Law Lab, ramon@innovationlawlab.org, m – 971.238-1804
Sarah Armstrong, sarmstrong@aclu-or.org, m – 503.756.3147

Salem, Ore.一 Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Martha Walters today announced a new rule to stop warrantless, civil arrests in Oregon’s courts. Community groups and immigration advocates petitioned the Chief Justice to adopt the rule in response to rising concern over increased immigration arrests at Oregon’s courthouses. The rule prohibits arrests inside any state courthouse and in public entryways, walkways, sidewalks, driveways, and parking areas around the courthouses. 

“This rule will bring an end to ICE’s destructive policy of courthouse intrusions making immigration arrests inside Oregon’s courts without judicial warrants and often without identifying themselves or producing any documentation at all,” said Stephen Manning, executive director of Innovation Law Lab, a national immigrants’ rights group based in Portland. 

“Our courthouses, like our schools, places of worship, and hospitals, are by their very nature sensitive places where all Oregonians must be able to enter without fear,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “These courthouses, located throughout the state, are centers of civic life, and are absolutely critical for everything from marriage to divorce, to filing for a restraining order, to pursuing justice in our courtrooms. Unfortunately, until now, many of our community members could not use our courthouses without constant fear.  With this Uniform Trial Court Rule, courthouses in Oregon will now be included as sensitive spaces prohibiting civil arrests unless the arresting agency has a judicial arrest warrant. This protects our witnesses, victims, jurors, defendants and other members of the public from interference while they conduct the business of our legal and justice systems. Thank you to our Chief Justice Martha Walters for issuing this important emergency rule, and to the broad coalition of stakeholders who worked to ensure that this critical issue was given the priority it deserves. Thanks to this new rule, Oregon will be a safer and more welcoming place for all.”

Community members and advocates have raised alarm that agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are frequently present at Oregon’s county and municipal courthouses, profiling and targeting community members to make non-criminal, civil immigration arrests. 

“We hear too often from devastated family members whose loved ones have been snatched up out of Oregon courthouses by people in street clothes and stuffed into unmarked cars and driven off,” said Cristina Marquez, interim executive director of Causa Oregon. “People have been afraid to go to the courthouses.”

“ACLU of Oregon legal observers have repeatedly witnessed ICE officers profile, stalk, and violently arrest community members in Oregon courthouses,” said Katherine McDowell, attorney and board member of the ACLU of Oregon. “The courthouse rule stops these frightening practices and ensures that everyone can seek justice in our courts.” 

Carl McPherson, executive director of Metropolitan Public Defender said he was thankful to the Chief Justice for addressing the problem. “As a result, our clients, witnesses, and other court-goers can participate in our judicial system without fear of being arrested and detained by ICE. By issuing this rule, the Chief Justice has ensured that access to our courts is protected for all people regardless of their immigration status.”

The rise in ICE arrests at Oregon courthouses is a direct byproduct of two executive orders issued by President Trump, early in his presidency, which made anyone subject to removal a priority for immigration enforcement. The ICE detentions often involved racial profiling and the use of physical force against individuals, their families, and bystanders. 

Oregon is the third state in the country, after New Jersey and New York state, to issue a statewide court rule prohibiting ICE from making civil arrests at state courthouses without a judicial warrant or judicial order. California provides similar protection through a recently enacted statute, and other rules prohibiting civil or immigration arrests exist in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, and King County, Washington. A federal judge has also prohibited ICE’s courthouse arrests in Middlesex and Suffolk counties, in Massachusetts. 

Innovation Law Lab, with assistance from Stoll Berne, formally petitioned the Chief Justice to issue an emergency rule prohibiting ICE arrests at or near state courthouses on the basis of Oregon’s common-law rule last year.  The petitioners were Adelante Mujeres, Causa Oregon, Immigration Counseling Service, Metropolitan Public Defender, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Unite Oregon, and Victim Rights Law Center. The ACLU of Oregon supported the petition and assisted Innovation Law Lab and Stoll Berne in seeking the court rule.

ICE agents have targeted county and municipal courthouses statewide, with planned or executed ICE arrests occurring, at a minimum, at courthouses serving Multnomah County, Washington County, Clackamas County, Lane County, Marion County, Umatilla County, Morrow County, Sherman County, Gilliam County, Wheeler County, Wasco County, Hood River County, Josephine County, Yamhill County, Lincoln County, Clatsop County, and the municipal courts in Beaverton and Molalla. Those courthouses combined serve nearly 3 million Oregonians, citizen and noncitizen alike.

“Tasked with the administration of justice over criminal issues, domestic relationships, probate, and many other important matters, Oregon state courts form a critical component of our civil society,” said Leland Baxter-Neal, staff attorney at the ACLU of Oregon. “As such, it is imperative that they be open to all Oregonians, including immigrants and persons of color.”

The Chief Justice’s announcement is online here https://www.courts.oregon.gov/news/Lists/ArticleNews/Attachments/1213/acd3fb79befadf4982b20ceba127ffd0-Media-Release-New-UTCR-Limiting-Civil-Arrests-in-Court-Facilities-effective-2019-11-14.pdf

The rule is online here https://www.courts.oregon.gov/rules/UTCR/CJO_2019-095.pdf.
Video of ICE arrests at Oregon courts in Clackamas, Clatsop, Multnomah, and Washington counties is online here:

COURT TEMPORARILY HALTS HEALTH CARE BAN

DOWNLOAD THE ORDER HERE

PRESS CONTACTS:

Justice Action Center: Christine Chen, christine@christinechen.com

American Immigration Lawyers Association: Belle Woods, bwoods@aila.org

Innovation Law Lab: Ramon Valdez, ramon@innovationlawlab.org 

Civil Rights Coalition Halts Implementation of Presidential Proclamation Requiring Health Insurance

November 2, 2019  – Today, litigators from the Justice Action Center (JAC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the Innovation Law Lab, with Sidley Austin LLP providing pro bono assistance, successfully halted implementation of the administration’s attempt to ban immigrants based on their ability to obtain health insurance upon arrival to the U.S. 

The temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR, has stopped the federal government from implementing the policy. This is not the end of the process as the court considers the full merits of the case, Doe v. Trump, in the coming days and weeks.

Carmen Rubio, Executive Director of Latino Network, a plaintiff in the case said, “We are encouraged by the court’s decision to issue the TRO that we requested along with the other plaintiffs across the country.  Today’s decision highlights the urgency of blocking this health care ban before it causes irreparable damage to our community and those we serve. We know that our fight is far from over, we will be steadfast in our work to ensure that we end family separation, ensure the dignity and rights of our community are respected, and hold this administration accountable to our nation’s constitution.”  

Stephen Manning, Executive Director of Innovation Law Lab, noted, “Oregon’s and our nation’s collective prosperity depends on the rule of law; the court’s decision protects the rule of law and families across the nation by halting President Trump’s harmful proclamation.”

“We’re very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the health care ban immediately,” says Justice Action Center Senior Litigator Esther Sung, who argued at today’s hearing on behalf of the plaintiffs. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped. It’s egregious that President Trump is attempting to flout the will of Congress and squeeze through a complete overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws without anyone noticing. Our fight will continue — we will stand with our plaintiffs and all immigrants to challenge this unjust health care ban.”

Jesse Bless, Director of Federal Litigation at AILA said, “We applaud the court’s ruling; countless thousands across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today because the court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted in the absence of a TRO. This proclamation would permanently separate families and damage employers; it is a clear violation of the constitution. The president simply does not have the authority to rewrite the law by proclamation.” 

Innovation Law Lab Summer Clerk 2020 Application

Learn for social justice.  Advocate for social justice.  Litigate for social justice.

Innovation Law Lab seeks clerks to work advancing the human rights of immigrants and refugees.  The clerkship provides an opportunity for law students to work directly with clients and get hands-on experience with impact litigation.  Past clerks worked on nationwide-precedent setting cases, engaged in civil rights litigation, developed programs for massive collaborative representation of asylum-seekers, and researched and wrote important reports on local and national immigrant rights issues.

The Summer Clerkship is a temporary position lasting at least 10 weeks.  The start date is usually in late May or early June. The length of the position and start dates are flexible.  Clerks can expect to work full-time. We expect to hire for at least two positions. One position will be based on Law Lab’s main office in Portland, Oregon; one position will be based in El Paso, Texas and will be hosted by the El Paso Immigration Collaborative (EPIC), of which Law Lab is a founding participant.   

Housing and moving expenses are the clerk’s responsibility. A stipend may be available; Innovation Law Lab will also work with the Clerk to seek funding from other sources as necessary.  

The deadline to submit your application for the Clerk 2020 position is Monday, December 2, 2019 at midnight, PST.  All the details are available below.

Application submission instructions

We try to make this process straightforward and not super-time consuming but rigorous enough so we can get the critical information we need from each applicant. If you have questions about the submission process, email them to jobs@innovationlawlab.org. 

Gather these things together:

  1. A law school transcript (unofficial or official, it doesn’t matter)
  2. A resume (the resume does not need to adhere to our general resume guidelines; it should, however, be as complete as possible)
  3. A cover letter. Your cover letter must: (1) Explain your commitment to social justice, or (2) Detail any past experience you have working with immigrant communities. You should also describe how you have used your English and Spanish or other language abilities in your cover letter.
  4. A writing sample – it should be your own work and words written during your law school tenure.
  5. Email (1), (2), (3) and (4)  in PDF format to jobs@innovationlawlab.org by midnight PST December 2, 2019.

Things happen quickly after submission. We anticipate conducting interviews and making an offer by December 16, 2019.

Advocates Ask Oregon Courts to Ban ICE Arrests at Courthouses

The Oregon Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee hearing will be live streamed at 2 p.m. Friday.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2019

Media Contacts: 
Ramon Valdez, Innovation Law Lab, ramon@innovationlawlab.org, m – 971.238-1804
Sarah Armstrong, ACLU of Oregon, sarmstrong@aclu-or.org, m – 503.756.3147;

SALEM, Ore. — Attorneys with the ACLU of Oregon, Innovation Law Lab, and Stoll Berne will ask Oregon’s Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee Friday to adopt a rule prohibiting civil immigration arrests in and around Oregon’s state courthouses without a judicial warrant. The attorneys submitted the proposed rule on behalf of immigrants’ rights and court advocates including Adelante Mujeres, Causa Oregon, Immigration Counseling Service, Metropolitan Public Defender, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Unite Oregon, and the Victim Rights Law Center. 

“ICE intrusions in and around Oregon courthouses jeopardize the court’s ability to administer justice as required under the Oregon Constitution,” said Nadia Dahab, attorney at Stoll Berne. “Fear of deportation keeps immigrants from reporting crimes and participating in court proceedings.”

VIDEO: Watch the ACLU’s video which reveals ICE activity in Oregon courts, spotlighting incidents at courts in Clackamas, Clatsop, Multnomah, and Washington counties.

In years prior, immigration enforcement prioritized the removal of persons convicted of serious crimes. However, in 2017, the President Trump issued two executive orders making anyone subject to removal a priority for immigration enforcement. Since then, as part of its mass deportation campaign, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has included state courthouses as a focus for conducting immigration enforcement. 

In Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington, courts recognized the harm caused by immigration enforcement at courthouses and limited or  blocked ICE from conducting courthouse arrests. In California, a law was signed this week that will prohibit ICE arrests at courts.

“Courthouses should be a ‘sensitive location’ where immigration enforcement is generally disallowed like hospitals and schools,” said Leland Baxter-Neal, staff attorney at the ACLU of Oregon. “It is in the interest of every Oregonian that our courthouses are a place where individuals, regardless of immigration status, can come to seek protection, file a lawsuit, or attend a court appearance.”

In their request, the lawyers write that ICE enforcement at state courthouses has an “impact on the individuals arrested, their families, and the community’s view of Oregon’s courts as safe and accessible places…every time a community member is forcibly taken by ICE from the courthouse, thousands of individuals begin to feel the very real threat that they might be next.”

“We have heard from so many people who are afraid that if they go to court, even just to pay their parking tickets or be a witness, they may be separated from their family,” said Cristina Delgado, the Immigrant Solidarity Project Coordinator for Adelante Mujeres. 

Last year, the same groups petitioned Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Martha Walters to protect the safety, welfare, and trust of Oregon’s immigrant community by issuing a rule blocking immigration civil arrests at courthouses. Over 750 Oregon lawyers sent their own letter to the Chief Justice in support of the change, including Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, the president of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and the executive directors of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Oregon Law Center, and Legal Aid Services of Oregon. Similarly, the 1,400-member lawyers’ organization, Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS) and over 300 faith leaders from across the state through the through the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) also sent letters to the Chief Justice requesting she issue a rule blocking ICE arrests at Oregon’s courts. 

”As people of faith and conscience, we have a moral obligation to work for justice for all people, ensuring that no matter the situation, people feel safe to seek justice without fear. We need to stop ICE from targeting our courthouses,” said Rev. Adam Hange, United Church of Christ pastor from Washington County and leader with IMIrJ.

The ACLU of Oregon says since 2017, hundreds  of volunteers from the ACLU and community groups have been trained as courthouse legal observers in Oregon. The blue-vested volunteers regularly observe court proceedings and accompany people to court. They have documented federal immigration agents in plainclothes sitting in on county court proceedings and following people out or waiting inside the hallways or on the grounds. The legal observers have witnessed numerous courthouse arrests, including at least one arrest inside a courtroom and multiple arrests in which ICE agents are physically violent. The ICE agents generally have refused to present any warrant for making an arrest, or to provide individuals with access to an attorney, even if one is present.  

“It is terrifying when people in street clothes are grabbing community members from inside and outside the courthouse, stuffing them in unmarked cars, and speeding off,” said Cristina Marquez, interim executive director of Causa Oregon. “These agents don’t answer questions and they don’t produce any documents. What is the difference between what they are doing and a kidnapping?”

The volunteer legal observers also documented the detention of a Latino U.S. citizen and Washington County worker, Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, outside of Washington County Court in 2017. Video of the incident, captured on the ACLU of Oregon’s Mobile Justice app, was widely reported on and viewed across the country. Following the incident, Representative Suzanne Bonamici and Washington County Sheriff Pat Garret criticized ICE’s practices, and Senators Wyden and Merkely called for a congressional inquiry. The agency cleared its agents of wrong-doing and did not apologize to Andrade-Tafolla. In August, Andrade-Tafolla filed an administrative complaint against the agency, seeking $100,000 for “humiliation, emotional distress, and psychological harm” as a result of ICE’s actions that day.

The ACLU of Oregon filed a FOIA request in 2017 seeking documents relating to ICE arrests at state courthouses and ICE’s communications with local government bodies and law enforcement. In August, DHS concluded production releasing more than 35,000 documents to the group. Review of the heavily-redacted and voluminous documents is ongoing, but the ACLU of Oregon says they have found that since 2017, ICE has executed or planned courthouse intrusions at state courthouses serving Clackamas, Clatsop, Gilliam, Hood River, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Sherman, Wasco, Wheeler, Umatilla, Washington, and Yamhill counties and at the municipal courts in Beaverton and Molalla. Those courthouses combined serve nearly three million Oregonians or 71 percent of the state’s residents.

Statewide Expansion of Oregon’s Universal Representation Program For Immigrants Begins

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 30, 2019

Portland, OR ー On October 01, 2019, the Equity Corps of Oregon, a trailblazing universal representation program that provides lawyers for immigrants in removal proceedings who cannot afford private legal representation, will begin providing legal services statewide. Equity Corps launched on October 1, 2018 with support from the City of Portland and Multnomah County, but is now able to expand statewide thanks to the State of Oregon’s $2 million investment in the innovative program. 

Legal defense for those facing deportation proceedings remains an urgent need throughout Oregon.  In a 2018 survey conducted by the Oregon Law Foundation, 70% of participants identified immigration as a civil legal issue that had a very or extremely negative effect on their lives. Unlike in criminal proceedings, respondents appearing before the U.S. immigration court do not have the right to court-appointed counsel. Meanwhile, the federal government is always represented by an attorney.  Those going before the Portland Immigration Court without legal representation are nearly five-and-a-half times more likely to lose their cases and be ordered deported from the United States; many to situations where their lives are in immediate danger. 

“No one should have to navigate our country’s highly complex immigration system without an attorney, especially when the consequences can include permanent family separation and removal to a country where they may face serious harms,” said Jordan Cunnings, managing Equity Corps attorney at Innovation Law Lab.  “Equity Corps aims to remedy the injustice wrought by this representation crisis by providing all income-eligible immigrant Oregonians with high quality legal services and representation.” 

Equity Corps is specifically designed to address this representation gap.  By leveraging the power of collaborative representation and innovative technology, Oregon’s universal representation program allows Oregonians in deportation proceedings to enter the pro bono legal services structure through a Community Navigator. Community navigators are trained to conduct a free, confidential, and secure referral into the program’s case clearinghouse database which is developed and maintained by software engineers at Innovation Law Lab, a Portland-based nonprofit. Those eligible for legal support through Equity Corps will then have access to free legal orientations, limited scope legal service workshops, legal representation, and connections to medical or mental health resources. 

In many ways, Oregonians are leading the country’s effort to establish a scalable, holistic, and high-quality universal legal defense system to ensure justice for immigrant members of its communities. “We are grateful to the people of Oregon for their ongoing trust and support in this essential effort.” said Benjamin Grass of Innovation Law Lab. “This is a watershed moment, a big step towards making inclusion, due process, and justice a reality for all Oregonians.” 

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To access Equity Corps services, start by finding a Community Navigator near you.

Read more about the Equity Corps’ novel representation model in this report “Defend Everyone: Creating the Equity Corps of Oregon to Provide Universal Representation.” 

Equity Corps of Oregon legal service providers include Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Immigration Legal Services, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Immigrant Defense Oregon of Metropolitan Public Defender, Immigration Counseling Service, Innovation Law Lab, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, and Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Community navigation organizations include El Programa Hispano, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Latino Network, and Pueblo Unido.  

The Universal Representation Committee of Oregon Ready is comprised of representatives from Causa, Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Immigration Legal Services, Immigrant Defense Oregon of Metropolitan Public Defender, Immigration Counseling Service, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Innovation Law Lab, Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Navigating Community Organization Pueblo Unido, and Transformative Immigration Law Class at Lewis & Clark Law School.

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