Massive Collaborative Representation: what it is and how it can be operationalized at specific sites of resistance;
the Big Immigration Law theory;
Oregon’s Rights Architecture and how innovation is fostered within the architecture.
The Sheridan Pro Bono project used a new mode of representation called Massive Collaborative Representation to intentionally exert power on the deportation system so that it might more fairly and more consistently adhere to the laws of the United States. The Sheridan Pro Bono Project relied on Oregon’s Rights Architecture to situate the massive collaborative representation in order to rapidly implement and scale the response
November 26 was a milestone in the Trump Administration’s failed experiment to incarcerate over 100 asylum seekers in a federal prison in Oregon. On that day, a judge heard the final asylum claims for the last two men still incarcerated at Sheridan.
To recap: in May 2018, the Trump Administration dropped more than 100 men who were seeking asylum into the Sheridan prison. The Trump Administration had already ordered all of the men deported and intended to deport them as quickly as possible and as secretly as possible. The administration prevented anyone detained inside from calling out for help; prevented everyone on the outside from getting in to provide help. The Trump Administration was experimenting with the U.S. Constitution by pretending it did not exist. The Law Lab promised to represent everyone at Sheridan; the Trump Administration protested and so the Law Lab sued. A federal judge ordered the Trump Administration to let the lawyers in. So the lawyers and legal advocates went in. And then what happened is that the law, the U.S. Constitution and all of the rules and rights that matter for liberty and democracy and the rule of law, mattered again.
None of the the Trump Administration’s inflammatory rhetoric proved to be true. The Trump Administration’s tweets that demonized these men were plainly false. Once lawyers got access, they were able to prove that each of these individuals were fleeing violence. Indeed, every person incarcerated at Sheridan and represented by the Innovation Law Lab was found to have a bona fide claim for asylum, or, in the words of the law, each individual had a substantially likelihood of winning asylum if only given a chance before a judge.
The Trump Administration’s rationale for incarcerating these individuals was largely illusory. The lawyers went to court and in the coming months, 96% of the men would be released on bond. Oregonians rallied together to raise over $22,000, which secured the release of four men whose families and friends did not have the ability to pay their bonds.
The way the system of justice is supposed to work is that we resolve disputes in court. Judges are supposed to hear testimony and review evidence. There is supposed to be examination and cross-examination. And then, good people who do, in the words of the Chief Justice of the United States, their level best to get the law and the facts right to make the best decision that can be made. That’s the way it is supposed to work.
And what happened on November 26? Exactly that. The Law Lab presented its best cases for its final two detained clients. The government presented its best case. And a judge heard both sides, considered the law and the claims and everything that was at stake.
In one case, the judge immediately granted asylum at the conclusion of the hearing. In the other case, the asylum seeker has been transferred to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma to await the judge’s decision.
October 1 marked the official launch of Equity Corps, Oregon’s first universal representation program. Portland, Oregon joins several cities nationwide that have invested in pro bono legal representation programs for individuals in removal proceedings.
There is no right to a court-appointed attorney in immigration court. Represented immigrants in the Portland Immigration Court are nearly three-and-a-half times more likely to win their cases than their unrepresented counterparts. If current rates of representation continue, about 80 percent of unrepresented Oregonians will eventually be ordered deported, many back to potentially dangerous situations.
Though Portland is home to several innovative and dedicated nonprofit immigration legal service providers, the demand for pro bono representation has far exceeded existing capacity. Many Portland residents who cannot afford to pay for an attorney have been left without representation, leading to deportations that tear apart Oregon families and communities. The need for increased legal capacity and collaborative solutions was clear.
Equity Corps is the result of a year-long collaborative effort to research, design, and advocate for a universal representation program. A universal representation committee was convened in late 2017 by Oregon Ready, a statewide immigrants rights coalition, to build a novel model with the potential to eventually scale to serve Oregonians throughout the state.
Support from the City of Portland and Multnomah County took the group’s universal representation concept from vision to reality. “Whether or not you have a lawyer in immigration court is ultimately the most determinative factor in whether or not you win your case,” Jordan Cunnings, attorney at the Innovation Law Lab explained. “It’s a very emotional experience and we are really thrilled to now have the opportunity to support people who are at risk of removal here in Oregon.”
To access Equity Corps services, start by finding a Community Navigator near you.
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, Innovation Law Lab, Transformative Immigration Law Class at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.
by Stephen W Manning, Executive Director at the Innovation Law Lab and Mat Dos Santos, Legal Director at the ACLU of Oregon
In late May 2018, the Trump Administration imprisoned Karandeep Singh, and hundreds other men like him, because he had fled to the United States to seek asylum. The administration’s goal, as President Donald Trump stated, was to “immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases bring them back from where they came.”
Mass imprisonment and rapid deportation are supposed to be the new norm because, according to the president, immigrants “are animals.” The Trump Administration is actualizing its immoral and unlawful plan to deport immigrant communities of color en masse. Immigrants with legitmate asylum claims are being deported faster and in larger numbers than we’ve seen before.
Like more than 120 other asylum seekers, the administration locked Karandeep in a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, denied him access to lawyers – and therefore the law – and then was going to immediately deport him in spite of his legitimate claim to asylum. That was supposed to be it.
Oregonians came together to provide necessary support for these asylum seekers in the best ways we each know how. We came together in the courts, on the streets, in the headlines, in our community, fighting for these men on both sides of Sheridan’s walls.
Grassroots organizations working within the Rights Architecture in Oregon deployed their best strategies, with their best hearts, and their clearest thinking to collectively defend Karandeep and all the men immorally imprisoned in Sheridan in order to build sustainable, inclusionary pathways for Oregon and everywhere.
Unidos Bridging Community, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), the Rural Organizing Project (ROP) and others built solidarity outside the detention center with everyone inside the detention center through vigils, marches, and and public manifestations of connection, support, and hope. These actions kept what was happening in Sheridan in the headlines and in public consciousness, letting the men know the community supports them and letting the government know that their actions don’t align with Oregon’s values.
The ACLU of Oregon – in collaboration with attorneys from Stoll Berne – as well as the Federal Public Defender of Oregon broke open the Trump Administration’s attempt to isolate Karandeep and others from the law by fighting the government in federal court. The successful lawsuit finally paved the way for the asylum seekers to have access to attorneys from the Innovation Law Lab.
APANO, ROP, Unidos, and the newly-formed ICE out of Sheridan group established a special post-detention respite network to provide a welcoming einvironment and transportation from the doors of the detention center to a safe, sheltered, dignified space, allowing the men to recover from detention and build plans for onward travel to their family and sponsors. This crucial support network engaged several religious organizations, like the Dasmesh Darbar Sikh Temple to St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, and dozens of community members.
And Oregon Ready, a statewide coalition of community organizations, collectivized attention on developing a lasting policy resolution to end asylum-seeker incarceration at federal prisons.
Karandeep’s journey is only partially complete. And many more immigrants of color are still confined within Sheridan and other facilites around the country. Yet when Karandeep walked out of Sheridan on August 21, he won an important victory in the long journey to protect the rule of law.
Today, we sent a team of pro bono lawyers to FCI Sheridan. And once again ICE denied our entire team of pro bono lawyers access to the asylum-seeking men they have hidden inside a federal penitentiary.
Why is this happening?
The Trump Administration has chosen to use the immense weapon of incarceration and family separation to punish and terrorize immigrants, particularly immigrants from communities of color. The law never required that these men be detained; the law never required that these families be separated; and the law certainly never required — in fact, it is rather unprecedented — that these men be imprisoned in a federal penitentiary.
But in the deportation process, when people are detained and hidden deportations come fast and easy. Keep them hidden. Keep them isolated. If no one cares, then it is as if it never happened at all. Right?
And that’s the mistake the Trump Administration made.
They weren’t expecting hundreds of Oregonians to step up and say: we are in this to win it. Unique in the United States, Oregonians–hundreds of you– have promised to defend these men in the courts, their families, the law of asylum — and by that simple Constitutional fact of due process and fairness, you are defending the rule of law and democracy.
What’s next & what can you do now?
Be ready. As soon as we open access–and we will–things will happen very very fast and you will need to be available. We cannot say when yet.
Learn about asylum. We’ve developed an online training curriculum to show you the basics.
Learn why the role of counsel in rapid removals is so important.
Be well & more soon,
The Sheridan Pro Bono Project
Chanpone Sinlapasai, Eileen Sterlock, Stephen Manning, Caroline van der Harten, Luis Garcia
Thank you for your interest and willingness to defend democracy, end family separation & support the pro bono legal effort at FCI Sheridan.
As you know, the Trump Administration has launched an assault on immigrants, particularly immigrants from communities of color. The immigration authorities are physically tearing children from parents, prosecuting asylum-seekers, and incarcerating mothers, fathers, and children–separately. Here at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon, the Trump Administration has incarcerated more than one hundred men who are seeking asylum
Nearly 300 people have volunteered to defend the law of asylum by supporting the legal defense work at FCI Sheridan. Thanks to your support, in just a few days:
We’ve opened a base camp (otherwise known as a very modest law office) in a donated space in the lovely rural town of Sheridan just minutes from FCI. The base camp will serve as hub of support & training for pro bono lawyers & advocates.
We have created a data system, legal templates, and are arranging for interpretation services. We are collecting asylum country reports.
We’ve established a toll-free hotline for the detained men and their families.
The ability of the detained men to access counsel is still very compromised (you can read our demand letters here and here).
We are working on creating better, more meaningful access that complies with the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States so that every individual experiences a fair process that is free from bias.
What happens next?
If you registered to be a volunteer, you will receive a few more emails about organizational things. If you haven’t registered, please do. There is a lot of work to be done.
We will soon have a scheduling system in place to train and deploy volunteers. We are working non-stop to get ready. To defend democracy and the rule of law means all-hands-on-deck and we are really glad you are on the team!
On Monday, June 18 at 5.30pm, you should be in Sheridan for a vigil planned by local advocacy and faith-based organizations. Details can be found here.
Be well & more soon,
The Sheridan Pro Bono Project
Chanpone Sinlapasai, Eileen Sterlock, Stephen Manning, Caroline van der Harten, Luis Garcia
The report calls on government bodies in Oregon to provide legal defense funding for community members in removal defense proceedings. The concept that no individual should face possible deportation without a lawyer is often referred to as “universal representation.”
Furthermore, the report recommends adopting an innovative approach to truly achieving a state of universal representation. The model proposed draws on the power of technology and collaboration for scalability and effectiveness. A visual can be found on page 18.
Legal representation is the single most predictive factor in whether an immigrant will prevail against an unjust deportation. With an attorney, immigrants will fare better at every stage of the court process. However, as immigration law is considered a civil matter, defendants are not entitled to a government-provided lawyer.
The federal government has activated the machinery of mass detention and deportation–ICE arrests are up in virtually every part of the country, and Jeff Sessions’ has proposed changes that would pressure judges to seek deportation over options for relief. State and local government are in a unique position, in which they can support policy and programs that stop the deportation of immigrant communities of color.
The report was authored by Stephen W. Manning, Executive Director of the Innovation Law Lab; Leland Baxter-Neal, Immigration Attorney at Metropolitan Public Defenders; Lindsay Jonasson, Student at Lewis & Clark Law School; Juliet Stumpf, Professor at Lewis & Clark Law School; and Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, Development Director at the Innovation Law Lab.
The Universal Representation Committee of Oregon Ready is comprised of individuals from Causa, Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Immigration Legal Services, Immigrant Defense Oregon of Metropolitan Public Defenders, Immigration Counseling Service, Innovation Law Lab, Transformative Immigration Law Class at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.
We are thrilled to share our latest report with you. “Building the Resistance: Innovation Law Lab Impact Report” is now available online.
The mass incarceration and deportation of immigrant communities of color has long been underway in the United States. With the election of President Donald Trump, what few safeguards existed for immigrants and refugees are now under attack. The need for scalable immigrant representation models and sites of resistance is greater than ever before.
Our impact report captures the collaborative work we have done over the past 18 months. Some of the highlights include:
Established four Centers of Excellence across the country, which provide pro bono representation for families formerly held in family detention centers
Launched BorderX, our model to scale representation of adult immigrants in detention
Trained 296 attorneys
Placed over 70 pro bono asylum cases affecting over 150 people
Been recognized by Financial Times as one of the most innovative legal organizations in North America