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.
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.