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Ending Sheridan, Report from the Sheridan Pro Bono Project

Ending Sheridan: Rise of a Rights Architecture, a report by Innovation Law Lab, describes the work in Oregon that resulted in a 100% client approval rate and the closing of the use of a prison for immigration detention.

One year ago, a broad effort to end the cruel and clandestine incarceration of immigrant men seeking asylum at the Sheridan federal detention center launched.

The report describes:

  • 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

Infographic on case outcomes

The Sheridan Pro Bono Project won 100% of the credible fear claims and 97% of the release claims—unheard-of client outcomes in traditional representational models. Although the legal representation was centralized at Innovation Law Lab, its MCR approach to representation was built on the work of a large coalition of organizations, including Unidos Bridging CommunityACLU of Oregon, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Interfaith movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), Rural Organizing Project (ROP), Causa, ICE Out of Sheridan, Progressive Yamhill and many other organizations who regularly work together through Oregon Ready.

Groups Call for An End to ICE Arrests in Oregon Courthouses

On September 18, 2017, ICE agents trailed and detained a county employee, father, and U.S. citizen as he and his wife left the Washington County courthouse.  Mr. Isirdro Andrade Tafolla grew up in Washington County in the small community of Hillsboro. Once a sleepy rural town, Hillsboro now boasts a growing tech sector and one of the most diverse populations in Oregon. A star soccer player in high school, Mr. Andrade Tafolla is now a cherished soccer coach and has worked as a dedicated county road maintenance employee for over twenty years.

A team of ICE agents were present in the courtroom when Mr. Andrade Tafolla and his wife, Mrs. Renee Selden Andrade, arrived for a routine appearance. The agents then followed the couple and detained Mr. Andrade Tafolla just outside of the courthouse.

The agents were wearing street clothes, including college sweatshirts and jeans, and offered no badges, warrants or other identification.  Driving three unmarked white minivans, they blocked the street to prevent Mr. Andrade Tafolla from leaving in his own vehicle. Here is the exchange:

ACLU Legal Observer [to first ICE agent]: Do you have a warrant? Are you with ICE? Do you have a warrant for arrest? Do you have any identification; do you have any identification that you can show them?
[No response– second ICE agent steps in front of the Legal Observer]
ICE Agent (continues to Mr. Andrade Tafolla): What is your last name?… This picture right here [showing a photo of another man] is you.

Mrs. Selden Andrade:  You are not a part of the Court. We do not know you. Please back away from my husband, please back away from our car before we call the cops… That is not my husband.

ACLU Legal Observer: Does anybody have ID? Does anybody have a warrant?
Mrs. Selden Andrade: No.

Mrs. Selden Andrade: We need to call the police… these random people are approaching us. We have no idea who these people are; we literally walked out of the courtroom and we are being approached.

Since 2017, the number of courthouse-related ICE intrusions like this one has skyrocketed. This unfortunate incident sadly repeats itself throughout the country, as unidentified ICE agents in plainclothes and unmarked cars increasingly use courthouses as a primary site for their deportation objectives.  As in Mr. Andrade Tafolla’s case, the agency often relies on racial profiling to find its targets. The highly public nature of these arrests, and the attendant reporting, has caused widespread fear.

Communities, judges, and elected officials across the country have condemned the practice, but it continues unabated. Just three weeks ago a single father and legal permanent resident was arrested and forcibly removed from the Oregon state courthouse halls while appearing for a minor charge.

Oregonians now join a growing chorus of voices demanding that state court leadership end ICE arrests in and around the courthouse to ensure that the halls of justice remain open to all by asking for a uniform trial court rule prohibiting civil immigration arrests in and around state courthouses.

Reaching Back to Blackstone

Rewind to over a century ago, when famed trial lawyer Clarence Darrow petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize a “very ancient” common law doctrine: the privilege against civil arrest at the courthouse. [1] Appealing to the “dignity and authority” of state and federal courts to administer “efficient and evenhanded administration of law and justice,” Darrow persuaded the Court that these arrests offend the judicial process itself. [2] The Stewart Court, quoting a case now two hundred years old, confirmed that fact:

“Courts of justice ought everywhere to be open, accessible, free from interruption, and to cast a perfect protection around every man who necessarily approaches them. The citizen in every claim of right which he exhibits, and every defense which he is obliged to make, should be permitted to approach them, not only without subjecting himself to evil, but even free from the fear of molestation or hindrance.” [3]

Key to the Court’s holding was the recognition that any deterrence of witnesses and parties may be just as damaging to the administration of justice as an arrest itself.  Without the privilege against civil arrests, the Court reasoned, “witnesses would be [wary] of coming within our jurisdiction.” [4] The Court went on to recognize that the privilege extended not only within the walls of the courthouse, but also “in attendance upon court, and during a reasonable time in coming and going.” [5]

Fourteen years later, Oregon joined the vast majority of states recognizing the common law privilege against civil arrests. Wemme v. Hurlburt affirmed that in Oregon “[p]arties and witnesses are exempt from arrest while going to, in attendance on, and returning from court.  This exemption is not prescribed by statute, but is a part of the common law and is a power inherent in courts for the purpose of preventing delay, hindrance, or interference with the orderly administration of justice in the courts.” [6]

Oregonians Request Prompt Action from the Chief Justice

Now before Chief Justice Martha Walters of the Oregon Supreme Court is a similar petition to keep the state courthouse accessible to all Oregonians, immigrant and non-immigrant alike.  Adelante Mujeres, Causa Oregon, Immigration Counseling Service, Metropolitan Public Defender, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Unite Oregon, and Victim Rights Law Center, represented by Innovation Law Lab and Nadia Dahab of Stoll Berne, are joined by the ACLU of Oregon and Youth, Rights & Justice in urging the Court to take action to protect the foundational rights of immigrants and, more broadly, every individual utilizing the courthouse.

Drawing from the very same principles raised by attorneys centuries before them, Petitioners and their allies request an order amending the Uniform Trial Court Rules (UTCR) to expressly prohibit civil immigration arrests in and around state courthouses. The petition was filed on December 4, 2018 and is currently pending before the Chief Justice.

The petition responds to growing alarm over the sharp incline of civil immigration arrests in courthouses in Oregon and around the country. The remedy requested reflects similar efforts undertaken by advocates in California, New York, and Massachusetts and by courts in New Mexico and Washington state to counter to a growing national crisis. [7] These efforts include a lawsuit filed by the District Attorneys in Suffolk County and Middlesex County, Massachusetts to enjoin federal immigration officials from engaging in courthouse intrusions.

In support of their motion, Petitioners submitted extensive evidence of the disruption caused by civil immigration arrests in courthouses in the state of Oregon. For example:

  • A minor and victim of sexual assault refused to report the crime for fear it would put her family in jeopardy.
  • An injured worker did not seek workers’ compensation benefits they were entitled to.
  • A defendant was prevented from introducing exculpatory evidence because witnesses who could prove his innocence were afraid and unwilling to go to court to testify.
  • A mother avoided going to court to pay a parking ticket for fear that her children would be left without a guardian should ICE arrest her.
  • A victim of wage theft was afraid to seek the full balance of his legal remedies.
  • A defendant was deprived of his day in court because he was arrested during the pendency of his case.

The impact of courthouse intrusions is geographically and demographically broad: planned or executed ICE arrests have occurred, at a minimum, at state courthouses in the Second (Lane), Third (Marion), Fourth (Multnomah), Fifth (Clackamas), Sixth (Umatilla, Morrow), Seventh (Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler, Wasco, Hood River), Fourteenth (Josephine), Seventeenth (Lincoln), Eighteenth (Clatsop), Twentieth (Washington), and Twenty-fifth (Yamhill) Judicial Districts, and at the municipal courts in Beaverton and Molalla. Together these courthouses serve nearly 3 million Oregonians—citizen and noncitizen alike.

In a study cited by Petitioners, 83% of surveyed direct services providers reported that their clients had failed to appear in court due to ICE presence in the state courthouse. Moreover, Petitioners report that ICE arrests do not conform with traditional arrest protocols, raising the specter of violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Due Process clause, and anti-discrimination laws. The real-life examples of the harm that results from courthouse arrests echo the concerns articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court over a century ago and the unease of current and former judges from around the country today. [8]

A Uniform Trial Court Rule Reflecting an “Ancient” Doctrine

The Petitioners have asked the Chief Justice to issue the following rule:

  1. No person may become subject to civil immigration arrest without a judicial warrant or judicial order while the person is inside a courthouse of this state and the person is present in connection with any judicial proceeding or other business with the court.
  2. No person may become subject to civil immigration arrest without a judicial warrant or judicial order while the person is going to or coming from a courthouse of this state, or while the person is within the environs of a courthouse of this state, if the person is traveling for the purpose of any judicial proceeding or other business with the court.
  3. Oregon courts may issue writs of protection in individual cases when appropriate in order to effectuate the common law.

The proposed rule echoes the common law authority already available to litigants and witnesses under Wemme and prior U.S. Supreme Court authority. Petitioners seek affirmation of this ancient doctrine and its positive application across the state. If Chief Justice Walters issues the rule, it would be effective immediately.

The power of the Oregon courts to govern the fair and equal administration of justice through the issuance of uniform rules is recognized in statute and case law, notably in Smith v. Washington Cty. [9] In Smith, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the ability of the court to engage in weapons searches and other means of securing the safety the courthouse.  The court reasoned that, “if courts are to serve as open forums for the resolution of legal conflicts, the participants and the public must feel safe to enter and remain inside.” [10] Similarly here, Petitioners seek the Court’s aid in ensuring the safe participation of all Oregonians in the legal system. They hope that this rule will prevent the racial profiling and harassment of people of color, such as what happened in the case of Mr. Andrade Tafolla. They also hope that a courthouse rule will provide real, meaningful assurance to all Oregonians that courthouses, like schools, hospitals and churches are special places that are safe for all, no matter your place of birth or the color of your skin.

In the meantime, parties and witnesses may use the Wemme and Stewart authority to seek individual writs of protection, now and into the future. However, as Petitioners contend, a patchwork, case-by-case approach gives little consistency across trial courts throughout the state, and may create challenges for litigants and witnesses unfamiliar with complex motions practice. Moreover, the writ offers little protection to a first-time seeker of a judicial remedy where there is no pending matter in which to file.

The Petition submitted to Chief Justice Walters can be found here. A subsequent, follow up letter to the Chief Justice can be found here.

If you, your family, your clients, or your constituents have been affected by ICE intrusions in Oregon courthouses, we would like to hear from you and offer additional resources. Comments and questions may be directed to Erin M. Pettigrew, Innovation Law Lab at erin@innovationlawlab.org.

Press inquiries may be directed to Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, 971-801-6047, victoria@innovationlawlab.org.

[1] Stewart v. Ramsay, 242 US 128, 129, 37 S Ct 44 (1916).

[2] Id.; Brief of Defendant-Appellant, Stewart v. Ramsay, 242 US 128, 129, 37 S Ct 44 (1916).

[3] Stewart, 242 at 129 (1916) (quoting Halsey v. Stewart, 4 NJL 366 (1817) (internal quotation marks omitted)).

[4] Id. at 130 (the word used in the original opinion by the Court was “chary,” a nearly obsolete synonym for “wary” in contemporary English usage).

[5] Id. at 129.

[6] Wemme v. Hurlburt, 133 Or 460, 460, 289 P 372 (1930) (citing Mullen v. Sanborn, 29 A 522 (Md Ct App 1894)). A similar privilege against arrests of subpoenaed witnesses is codified in state statute: ORS 44.090. For a summary of similar cases across the U.S., see Christopher N. Lasch, A Common-Law Privilege to Protect State and Local Courts During the Crimmigration Crisis, 127 Yale L J Forum 410, 431–32 (2017).

[7] Immigrant Defense Project, The Courthouse Trap: How ICE Operations Impacted New York’s Courts in 2018 (January 2019);  Ctr. Soc. Justice Temple Univ. Beasley Sch. of L., Obstructing Justice: The Chilling Effect of ICE’s Arrests of Immigrants at Pennsylvania’s Courthouses (Jan. 30, 2019); American Civil Liberties Union, Freezing Out Justice: How Immigration Arrests at Courthouses Are Undermining the Justice System (2018); see also National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project, Promoting Access to Justice for Immigrant and Limited English Proficient Crime Victims in an Age of Increased Immigration Enforcement: Initial Report from a 2017 National Survey [hereinafter “NIWAP Report”] (May 3, 2018); Tahirih Justice Center, Key Findings: 2017 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors.

California: Application For a Proposed Rule of Court Prohibiting Civil Arrests At California Courthouses, No. 00545059 (Judicial Council of California, August 01, 2018); AB 668, 2019-2020 Reg. Sess. (CA 2019).

New York: S 00425, 2018-2019 Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (NY 2019)

Massachusetts: Matter of C. Doe & Others, No. SJ-2019-119, (Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County Sep. 18, 2018).

King County Superior Court (WA): Court Policy: No Courtroom Arrests Based on Immigration Status, approved by the King County Superior Court Judges on April 22, 2008.

Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court (NM): Courthouse Access Policy, approved on Sep. 25, 2018.

[8] See, e.g., Letter from Thomas A. Balmer, Chief Justice of the State of Oregon, to Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, and John F. Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security (April 6, 2017); Letter to Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director (December 12, 2018).

[9] Smith v. Washington Cty., 180 Or App 505, 521 (2002) (construing the phrase “administrative authority and supervision” in ORS 1.002(1)(i)).

[10] Id. at 522.

Posted on May 3, 2019

Judge rules NORCOR violated Oregon law

Court finds that NORCOR assisted ICE in a manner that violates ORS 181A.820; finds detention contract not prohibited


February 8, 2019


Erin M. Pettigrew, Innovation Law Lab, erin@innovationlawlab.org, 971-612-0540

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, Innovation Law Lab, victoria@innovationlawlab.org, 971-801-6047

The Dalles, Oregon – In a decision issued today, Judge John Wolf of Wasco County determined that two of Northern Oregon Regional Corrections’ (NORCOR) immigration enforcement practices are illegal under Oregon’s disentanglement law, ORS 181A.820, often referred to as Oregon’s sanctuary statute and the first law of its kind in the nation.

First, the court took issue with NORCOR’s practices of notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when a person is scheduled to be released from the local jail. The court determined that “[t]he record in this case establishes no purpose for the release notifications except for the purpose of detecting and apprehending persons in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”

The court went on to conclude that the jail’s allegedly discontinued practice of holding individuals beyond their release date for ICE is likewise illegal under state law. The court reasoned, “re-seizure or subsequent seizure occurs when an inmate remains in jail after the original basis for incarceration ceases to exist.” Therefore, NORCOR must release the individual as required under state law, and to do otherwise violates ORS 181A.820, said Judge Wolf.  

The trial court held, however, that NORCOR’s contract with ICE to “accept and provide for secure custody” of persons detained for federal immigration enforcement does not violate ORS 181A.820, nor does its policy of notifying ICE of the presence of a foreign-born person upon booking on state or local charges. With respect to the contract, the court determined that the term “apprehend” in the statute “is not commonly understood to mean holding someone in jail or prison.” The court went on to conclude that notifying ICE of the presence of foreign-born persons in the jail did not violate Oregon law because those persons may have violated other state laws and because there is an exception to the statute for exchanges of information to verify immigration status.

Though NORCOR argued the Plaintiffs lacked standing, the trial court disagreed, ruling that the Plaintiffs had standing to bring suit because they had shown negative tax consequences as a result of NORCOR’s relationships with ICE.

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision that NORCOR is violating Oregon law in some respects, but disappointed by the court’s decision with respect to the ICE contract,” said Erin M. Pettigrew of Innovation Law Lab, one of the attorneys representing the Plaintiffs. “As Judge Wolf observed at the hearing, it is likely that some or all of his rulings will be appealed, as they involve issues of broad importance to Oregonians.”

Read the decision here.

Organizations Call for Lane County Sheriff to Stop

Assisting Federal Immigration Enforcement

Community members alarmed at cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE

February 1, 2019

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, Innovation Law Lab, victoria@innovationlawlab.org, 971-801-6047

Joel Iboa, Causa Oregon, joel@causaoregon.org, 541-357-7664

EUGENE, Ore.— Legal and social services providers, advocacy groups, and political leaders today submitted a letter to the Lane County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), demanding an end to the office’s practice of assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The letter is in response to reports from local attorneys that sheriff’s deputies are instructed to inform ICE when people are to be released from jail. In addition to informing ICE of upcoming releases, the groups say deputies allow ICE special access to the back entrance of the Lane County jail, further facilitating arrests by ICE.

“This situation has, in a moment, undone many, many years of work at trying to build trust and a relationship between the Latinx community and public safety,” said Guadalupe Quinn, president of the board of Grupo Latino de Acción Directa de Lane County (GLAD) and long-time Eugene civil rights leader. “This puts everyone at risk and is so disappointing.”

A 32-year-old Oregon law prohibits state agencies from using state or local resources to assist federal immigration enforcement. The groups say the disentanglement or “sanctuary” statute, the oldest of its kind in the country, clearly makes such cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement unlawful. The law was referred to the ballot last November by an anti-immigrant group, but Oregonians voted by a wide margin to keep the law in place.

“Oregonians, including those residing in Lane County, overwhelmingly voted to protect Oregon’s 32-year-old sanctuary law by defeating Measure 105,” said Andrea Williams, Executive Director at Causa Oregon, chair of the campaign to defeat the attempted roll-back of the law. “Voters sent a clear message that Oregon is a place where we look out for our neighbors.

This week alone, ICE detained someone who was trying to sign up for alcohol treatment by a Court order. Also this week, the Circuit Court had to cancel a trial for a defendant whose family had previously posted bail at the Lane County Jail, only to then be immediately taken into custody by ICE. When ICE interferes with the local court’s ability to order necessary substance abuse treatment or bring cases to trial for defendants who are presumed to be innocent of any wrongdoing, any local cooperation by law enforcement places an undue strain on individuals and families and undermines public safety interests.

“What our local immigration attorneys are reporting is extremely troubling and requires immediate attention,” said David Saez, executive director of Eugene-based immigrant rights group, Centro Latino Americano. “We need to not only follow the letter of the law but we need to make sure we are attending to the spirit of the law. We need a thorough examination into how the ‘sanctuary’ law is being enforced. It is on us to push and demand accountability. It’s a matter of safety and honesty.”

Lane County’s cooperation with ICE shares similarities to the practices at NORCOR, the four-county jail in The Dalles, Oregon. NORCOR’s ICE-related policies resulted in a lawsuit brought by concerned citizens, currently pending in Wasco County. “Oregon’s disentanglement statute was enacted to put an end to practices like this one,” says Erin Pettigrew of Innovation Law Lab, one of the attorneys representing the NORCOR plaintiffs. “The drafters of the law knew that cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement has harmful effects on our community.”

The letter was signed by Causa Oregon, the Eugene Human Rights Commission, Centro Latino Americano, NAACP of Eugene/Springfield, Grupo Latino de Acción Directa of Lane County (GLAD), Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) of Eugene-Springfield, Public Defender Services of Lane County, Community Alliance of Lane County, Integration Network for Immigrants of Lane County (IN), the Democratic Party of Lane County, Sanctuary Temple Beth Israel, ACLU People Power of Eugene-Springfield, ACLU of Oregon, and the Innovation Law Lab.

“Oregon voters just reaffirmed that they don’t approve of local sheriffs acting as an arm of President Trump’s cruel deportation force,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Sheriff Trapp must end this flagrant violation of community trust and the law.”

Read the letter submitted to the Lane County Sheriff’s Office here.

From 124 to Zero: Final asylum seekers released from Sheridan

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.

Equity Corps launches in Portland, Oregon

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.

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

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.

Detainer Litigation and Discovery: ICE Records Discoverable

Innovation Law Lab, together with attorneys from Oregon Law Center, recently obtained a victory for the taxpayers in Wasco County who seek to an end of the ICE contract and other immigration enforcement activity prohibited by state law in their four-county jail. The jail, NORCOR, objected for months to delivering records demonstrating local law enforcement assistance with federal immigration enforcement. Citing 8 C.F.R. § 236.6, NORCOR made a blanket refusal to turn over documents, sought to claw back those it had already turned over, and refused to answer questions in depositions about the material.

The regulation, 8 C.F.R. § 236.6, prohibits public disclosure of the names and other identifying information of individuals held in detention by ICE. Plaintiffs contend that there is a significant difference between public disclosure, such a FOIA request or similar public records request, and documents sought in a lawsuit. The Wasco County Court agreed and ordered NORCOR to produce the documents, concluding “[t[hat regulation does not apply to requests for discovery in litigation.”

The Court also confirmed that where a local law enforcement agency or other party holds documents sent to it by a government agency, the Touhy regulations do not apply.  The Court reasoned that because NORCOR “is not a federal agency or a current or former federal employee,” the Plaintiffs may obtain documents directly from NORCOR.

Innovation Law Lab applauds our clients in demanding transparency and accountability at NORCOR, and hopes this ruling assists other jurisdictions in understanding the correct scope of 8 C.F.R. § 236.6.

A copy of the ruling can be found here.

Compassion, Immigration, and the Rule of Law

Photo: Ethan Chua, our summer intern, transfers knowledge to Amelia Bellows, our fall intern.

A few weeks before I began my internship at the Innovation Law Lab, a nonprofit based in Oregon that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees, I was both nervous and skeptical about beginning the work. Nervous, because I was an undergraduate majoring in anthropology who knew next to nothing about refugee law; skeptical, because, in the few years I’d spent in the United States, I’d learned how the rule of law is often employed as a smokescreen for institutionalized racism – from Nixon’s targeting of impoverished communities of color in his war on drugs, to the systemic brutality black men face at the hands of police today.


But the day I began my internship, I watched as the Innovation Law Lab scored a major legal victory in its suit against the Department of Homeland Security, winning a temporary restraining order that granted it access to the federal prison in Oregon where over a hundred immigrants were being detained. That day, I saw the rule of law being applied to ensure the dignity and security of over a hundred men who had been treated by the current administration as less than human, incarcerated without trial or conviction in blatant violation of their constitutional rights. And after that day, I worked with the Law Lab and saw several of those men through from their know your rights training, to their credible fear interviews (where their eligibility for asylum is determined), to their eventual release.


My internship is coming to a close, and I’ll admit I leave with a continued ambivalence towards the institution of the law in the United States. Its founding principles, couched in a language of equal rights and humanism, also effectively excluded indigenous and black Americans from its protections; nevertheless, those same principles have been rearticulated by activists of color to actually stand for the defense and dignity of all human beings. And with respect to immigration – on the one hand, the continued jurisdiction the executive branch has over immigration courts in the US allows decisions such as who qualifies for asylum to be swayed by the whims of whichever administration has power; on the other hand, the very principles of international refugee law were a powerful response to the atrocities of the Holocaust, holding nation-states accountable to ideals larger than the span of their individual territories.


But I’ve realized, too, that I started this internship missing a key point – forgetting that, as indomitable and opaque institutions such as the justice system may seem, they are ultimately forged from social relationships, and thus within our power to change. I think of Marx’s concept of alienation, where relationships between people are reinscribed as relationships between things, and where we subsequently forget the ways we are involved in the systems we inhabit. It’s this same alienation which prevented me from imagining the rule of law used as a tool for compassion – as a way to guarantee the safety of immigrants and the rights of refugees.


I’m frustrated, now, when headlines refer to the massive movement of migrants in response to persecution and strife as a “crisis” with murky origins – frustrated at the way it renders mass swathes of human beings into a problem to be solved or a security issue to be dealt with. And with the turns in the United States towards nativism and jingoism in response to the continuing arrival of refugees, I see a profound alienation at work. Because it’s not about the dilution of an abstract national identity or the supposed influx of a wave of criminals – no, how we respond to those who arrive at the border seeking safety and refuge is not a question of security, but a question of humanity.


So I guess, in other ways, immigration is a crisis – but a crisis of compassion. It’s a challenge to us to imagine a world where one’s fundamental rights are not dictated by the borders of one’s nation-state, the language on one’s passport, or the color of one’s skin. And it’s a challenge to the way we envision the institutions we hold dear – do we continue to employ the rule of law as a thinly veiled instrument of racism and sexism (as in Jeff Sessions’s decision to make it more difficult for Central and South Americans fleeing domestic violence to seek asylum), or do we fight for its just application (as in current litigation to have a private prison in Oregon stop its detainment of refugees) and for its empathetic reform?


Moving forward, too, we will have to confront the inadequacies of international refugee law, even as its just application has safeguarded millions from persecution. Can we, for example, recognize the ways in which economic disparities are also forms of global violence – say, expanding the current call to reunite families separated at the border to recognize the trauma faced by families also torn apart in places as varied as Nicaragua and the Philippines due to the demands of a remittance-based economy? Can we begin to prepare – with compassion – for the mass migrations that will result due to extreme changes in climate throughout the globe?


Perhaps much of this reform seems beyond imagining. Meaningful change in immigration law has stalled consistently in the United States due to partisanship and political polarization. But to say it is impossible is to forget that we are both participants in and drivers of social institutions; it is to resign ourselves to the way things are; it is to refuse to dream.


And in the wake of an increasing cynicism at the failure of globalization to deliver on its supposed promises of equity and prosperity; in the return to a rhetoric of racist nationalism among many countries in the West; international refugee law still stands as a powerful testament to our ability to imagine a humanity larger than ourselves and our borders. But we can do better, still – for today’s refugees and for the refugees of the future – so dream we must.

This blog post was written by Ethan Chua. Ethan was a summer intern at the Innovation Law Lab and is a junior at Stanford University studying anthropology. He is a published comic book writer and spoken word poet. This post was originally published on the Stanford Urban Studies & Urban Summer Fellowship blog.

Sheridan: When a Community Responds

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.

But, exactly 90 days after he was thrown in prison, Karandeep was freed from his cell in Sheridan to fight his asylum claim outside the electrified confinement of immigrant detention.

How did Karandeep get out of Sheridan?

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.


Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Causa, and others activated a massive network of volunteers to engage in the challenging and vital work of defending everyone in detention so that no one was forgotten.

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.

The simple promise that ended mass deportation in Sheridan

A note from Sheridan: “You were the ray of hope that entered the window of my cell. May God bless you and give you health. We care for your very much.”

Dear friends,

The Trump Administration hatched a plan to deport as many immigrants as fast as they could. Their plan involves building the apparatus of mass incarceration, creating vast shadows of stigma over the immigrant community, and eliminating courts. When the administration decided to incarcerate more than 120 asylum-seeking men in the Sheridan federal prison, they were implementing a plan to stigmatize, incarcerate, and then rapidly deport. It was a pre-ordained conclusion.

Well, that was until you stepped in.

A month ago, the ACLU of Oregon filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Innovation Law Lab and our client, Luis Javier Sanchez Gonzalez, in order for the Law Lab to obtain access to a single node in the apparatus of mass incarceration, the federal detention center in Sheridan, Oregon. Last week, the federal court granted a preliminary injunction securing our continued access. The Law Lab promised to represent everyone who needed and wanted a lawyer. Everyone.

And that simple promise broke the rapid deportation system in place at Sheridan. Although everyone was supposed to have been deported by now, every person represented by the Law Lab’s pro bono teams on the merits has won their fear claim. Everyone. And now it is time to get them out of detention and back with their families where they belong.

Since late June, more than 100 volunteers have:

  • Completed 101 legal screenings
  • Conducted 202 legal meetings
  • Defended clients at 85 credible fear interviews
  • Initiated release applications for every client
  • All of this in 9 languages
  • And WON every single fear claim. Every claim.

These men are still inside Sheridan. People who stood up for their beliefs, even when it put them in harm’s way. People who fled persecution from places like India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mauritania. People seeking refuge from violent political battles playing out in different places in the world.

Today the first applications for release were filed. You can continue to support our efforts by making a gift, signing up to be part of the post-detention respite network, and joining public actions hosted by local advocacy organizations.

Thank you to the volunteers who have showed up in Sheridan and given their all and to the community members who have joined in marches and vigils, assuring the voices from Sheridan are heard. And special thanks to our community organization partners: the ACLU of Oregon, AILA, APANO, Causa, IMIrJ, and Unidos Bridging Community.

The Trump Administration sent immigrants to Sheridan in an attempt to deport them, to shut them off from legal counsel and the outside world. But because of YOU we have been able to alter the course of mass deportation in Sheridan, Oregon.


The Innovation Law Lab Team


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