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

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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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