The immigration court system is the entity in which immigration judges make decisions on deportations, many asylum claims, and other immigration-related cases. The immigration court system is operated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) under the unitary control of the U.S. Attorney General. Deportation proceedings before an immigration court are adversarial in nature and difficult for most to navigate.
No. While all Oregonians, including those without immigration status, are guaranteed due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, unlike criminal court proceedings, immigrants facing deportation before U.S. Immigration Courts are not provided an attorney if they cannot afford one. All around the country, some of the most vulnerable members of our society are left scrambling in the margins to raise thousands of dollars to pay unreasonably expensive bonds in order to be released from detention, private legal representatives, and, ultimately, to keep their families together. Having meaningful access to legal representation is, by far, the single most outcome-determinative factor in whether or not an Oregonian will prevail in their immigration case and avoid deportation from the United States.
The purpose of Universal Representation is to make sure that every Oregonian can contribute to our collective prosperity by providing legal services to stop unlawful or unjust deportation and has an opportunity to get immigration legalization services.
The program stops deportation and provides legal services through community-based navigation, community-based legal services, and removal defense services.
Community members in need of legal services will be connected to the program through community-based navigators. Navigators are trained individuals already working within the impacted community who conduct initial interviews to determine eligibility for services, and support community members as they are connected to legal services and other resources that they need to support them through their immigration case. Individuals unable to access a community navigator can enter the system through a statewide call center, ensuring accessibility regardless of geographic location or mobility.
Community-based navigation plays a critical role in Universal Legal Representation. Trained staff at participating organizations conduct trauma-informed screenings and affiliated with Universal Legal Representation can undergo training to become certified navigators. Navigators use a shared technology platform to connect individuals to services. Navigators provide systems coordination and family support to immigrant and refugee families, performs interviews to enroll applicants in the universal representation program, orients applicants to the Massive Collaborative Representation model and sets expectations about the services, often serves as a communication link between the applicant and the Universal Representation cohort, provides applicants with referrals, guidance, and education of resources across various systems including but not limited to legal, housing, health-care, and education. Navigators cannot provide legal advice.
This program was carefully designed based on data from the pilot project, including members of the impacted-community, whose views were centered in designing how to deliver services. We relied on an extensive review of committee and working group notes, client and stakeholder interviews, site visits, progress reports, and two published reports on the first two years of the pilot project, Defend Everyone and Defending Everyone. Additionally, the successes and challenges of other universal representation projects across the country, including the Seattle Legal Defense Fund, LA Justice Fund, One California, New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund, and the Washington DC Immigrant Justice Legal Services Fund, informed the project. The program is designed around the answers to three questions: 1) What does an individual need to defeat an unlawful or unjust deportation? 2) What does Oregon need to abolish all deportations of Oregonians? 3) How might we create a system for mass legalization?
The Universal Representation program will be managed by the impacted community through the Oregon Worker Relief Coalition. Organizations representing the impacted community and important stakeholders would collaborate on policy, guidance, and implementation. Day-to-day operations would be managed by a coalition coordinator and the clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse links the major components of the program within and across organizations operating in the coalition into a high-performance model that advances coalition objectives of justice and equity. It designs and manages movement, storage, and flow of services and information inside and outside the coalition in order to deliver the right thing at the right time according to the program’s objectives.
In order to be successful in abolishing deportations and achieving immigrant inclusion, the program must be designed around the lived experience of the impacted community. This includes governance–which will enable the centering of the community in every aspect of the program. We believe that the impacted community must lead in order for the solution to center the impacted community. A community-based governance process has proved successful in the Oregon Worker Relief Coalition, in which the community created, designed, and now implements every aspect of the successful program.
Equity Corps of Oregon (ECO) is the first iteration of universal representation in Oregon. The program began in October of 2018 with funding from the City of Portland and Multnomah County, and expanded statewide with funding from the State in October 2019. ECO’s ten partner organizations provide navigation and legal services, including removal defense, to Oregonians at risk of deportation. The ECO program is funded through June 2021. Building off of the successes of this multi-year pilot project, Universal Legal Representation would permanently support Oregonians at risk of deportation through community-based defense, naturalization and legalization services, and client empowerment.
The Fellowship program would provide lawyers an opportunity to work directly in the impacted community around the state. Using a competitive process, lawyers from Oregon (with an emphasis on lawyers trained at Oregon law schools) as well as nationwide would apply for up to 12 fellowships. Each fellow will receive intensive legal training on immigration law, particularly removal defense representation, immigrant rights, and affirmative benefit applications as well as hands-on experience representing clients before federal agencies and the immigration court. Fellows will be placed in community-based organizations throughout Oregon. Each host organization will act as the Employer of the Fellows for the duration of the Fellowship. Fellows are provided daily supervision, technical assistance, and mentorship. Fellows will be treated as a cohort and have access to leadership development and networking opportunities. Examples of work that Fellows would undertake include: participate in Know Your Rights orientation sessions, provide limited legal assistance to community members, work on a variety of immigration cases, including preparing applications, declarations, and supporting evidence as well as providing co-representation in immigration interviews, bond hearings, and removal hearings, participate in on-going legal training and capacity building opportunities as well as regular case rounds sessions with the entire Fellowship cohort. Throughout Fellowship, Fellows will actively participate in leadership and skill development activities.
Capacity grants provide financial support to agencies that provide navigation or legal services as a part of Universal Legal Representation. The funding is meant to support and expand existing infrastructure at participating organizations.
Collaborative representation reduces system redundancies and improves service quality. When service providers operate in silos, clients are forced to waste valuable time and emotional energy seeking assistance at various access points, with distinct requirements and opaque intake procedures. A collaborative system allows prospective clients to access services in a streamlined manner, and have their most immediate needs met promptly. Moreover, direct grant representation models often reach caseload capacity early on in a funding cycle. Most direct grant models we studied had to deny help to many people; we also found that direct grant models meant the community wasn’t sure who could actually help them due to a lack of uniform and centralized statewide process and eligibility requirements. This model leaves the jurisdiction back in the same space of scarcity that existed before the representation program began.
Technology enables the partners of Universal Legal Representation to operate collaboratively. A Navigator Portal enables community navigators to evaluate a person’s eligibility for legal representation and submit their application for services to a centralized Clearinghouse. This navigation information seamlessly converts into a record that can be accessed by the attorney providing legal services in a case. Database information is subject to the highest levels of security, keeping case information confidential and protected.
Yes. Universal Legal Representation will serve detained Oregonians. Oregonians placed in immigrant detention in the Pacific Northwest will receive representation in requests for release on bond. The program will prioritize requests from release from detention because of the dehumanizing and dangerous conditions of immigrant detention; additionally, immigrants released from detention are much more likely to win their cases when compared to immigrants who remain detained. For Oregonians who are unable to obtain release from detention, funds for representation on the merits will be available.
Universal Legal Representation’s predecessor program provided legal services to over 1,300 people in its first two years.
The Oregon Worker Relief Coalition is a community-created, community-designed, and community-governed coalition that, collectively, has created innovative ways to serve Oregonians across the state. The OWRC has earned the trust and respect of the community it serves by centering its voice and delivering on its promises.
In 2017, a broad, statewide coalition of immigrant rights and community organizations took place and identified the need for a statewide Immigrant Inclusion Plan after the unprecedented attacks against immigrant communities in Oregon and the attempts to deport Dreamers. This coalition became Oregon Ready. Oregon Ready administers the Immigrant Inclusion Plan. The IIP provides a multi-zone approach to building durable pathways to immigrant inclusion in Oregon. The IIP was seeded and is supported by Oregon private philanthropy through support for the multi-zone Oregon Rights Architecture. The IIP supports a coalition manager, an immigrant rights attorney, and a policy director. The Rights Architecture is an open, transparent, deeply visible, and transformative system for immigrant rights and affiliated groups to create and sustain inclusion in Oregon.
The Navigation Advisory Committee will be composed of representatives of the community and will guide the navigation services component of the program. It would review and suggest policy for eligibility, best practices and make appropriate recommendations, review applications and make recommendations on navigation services capacity grants.
The Legal Services Advisory Committee will be composed of representatives of the community and will guide the legal services component of the program. It would review and suggest policy for eligibility, best practices and make appropriate recommendations, review applications and make recommendations on legal services capacity grants.
SB 1543 has bipartisan support and is currently under consideration by the Oregon House of Representatives. You can read the text of SB 1543 here, along with analysis, amendments and testimony. The bill provides a critical framework. The community that feels the pain of deportation, family separation, and immigration exclusion are the same people who designed the system. The bill gives the community the leading voice and role in implementing the universal system that they designed to solve the pain they experience. The Universal Representation program is accountable to the community.