The most powerful way to fulfill the promise of inclusion and sanctuary, and further our collective prosperity, is to permanently join—and lead through an innovative, comprehensive plan—the movement of cities and states that are establishing equitable access to justice for immigrant residents. SB 1543 is a bill currently making its way through the Oregon legislature with bipartisan support that would ensure that every immigrant Oregonian has access to Universal Legal Representation through community-based lawyering and client empowerment. Through the establishment of permanent Universal Representation, Oregon can provide access to justice to all community members threatened with deportation.
Representation returns the rule of law to deportation proceedings by protecting against unfair and unjust deportation and freeing those detained unnecessarily. The deportation system is stacked against the individual who, often alone, faces a government attorney trained to pursue their expulsion. The State, the Counties, and the City can provide the vision and the capacity for universal representation of our people. Universal Representation promotes the equitable treatment of Oregon’s communities of color by reducing family separation, deportation, and detention based on race and ethnicity.
Oregon’s state and local governments have consistently stood in solidarity with immigrant Oregonians. In the wake of the November 2016 election and in anticipation of the anti-immigrant attacks that would follow, Governor Kate Brown issued an Executive Order declaring that Oregon is “a jurisdiction that embraces, celebrates, and welcomes its immigrant and refugee residents and recognizes their contributions to the collective prosperity of all Oregonians.” 13 Both Multnomah County and the City of Portland declared themselves to be sanctuary jurisdictions. 14 And in 2018, Oregonians voted overwhelmingly to preserve the state’s thirty-year-old disentanglement statute.