By reducing civic exclusions, family separation, deportation, and detention based on race and ethnicity, Universal Representation promotes due process and equitable access to justice for Oregon’s immigrant communities of color and advances the collective prosperity of all Oregonians.

What is ECO?

Equity Corps of Oregon, or ECO, is a universal representation program based on the core belief that every eligible Oregonian should be able to defend against an unjust or unfair deportation or defeat a civic exclusion on account of immigration status. 

ECO is part of Oregon Worker Relief, a statewide network of community-based organizations dedicated to providing assistance to immigrant Oregonians excluded from federal and state safety net programs.

How and why did Equity Corps of Oregon start?

The Equity Corps officially launched in the fall of 2018, with support from the City of Portland and Multnomah County. The program is the culmination of a multi-year effort by serveral community based organizations, advocates and providers to create an innovative universal representation model to defend immigrant Oregonians from unjust and unlawful deportations.

Legal representation is often the difference between an immigrant exercising their rights and accepting an unfair outcome; between an asylum seeker receiving refuge or being forced to return to a life-threatening situation; and between a family with mixed residency status staying together and being split apart. Immigrants who are represented in removal proceedings are fifteen times more likely to apply for relief and five-and-a-half times more likely to win their cases and prevail against unjust deportations when compared to their non-represented counterparts.

Universal Representation (SB1543) successfully passed the Oregon legislature in 2022 to create a permanent statewide Universal Navigation and Representation program which embeds access to justice in community. Now part of Oregon Worker Relief, ECO is a collaborative of community-based organizations, nonprofits, and attorneys working to provide Universal Legal Representation to all immigrants in Oregon. 

How does Universal Representation through Equity Corps of Oregon work?

  • a statewide call center for all potentially eligible individuals seeking services; 
  • a statewide network of navigators, embedded in community based organizations, that assist those eligible to enroll in the program
  • client services fund to solve financial barriers to participation in immigration proceedings; 
  • central clearinghouse to coordinate legal services in partnership with the Oregon State Bar and to provide support to community-based immigration lawyers and other ECO legal service providers;
  • expanded funding for nonprofit immigration legal service providers;
  • an advisory committee to provide expert guidance and recommendations relating to the coordination of services, standards and guidelines, the development of best practices and other matters necessary to the well functioning of the system. 

    How is ECO funded?

    ECO is currently funded by the State of Oregon, which provided critical funding to build the necessary infrastructure for this large scale program and meet the needs of the community. 

    Funding allocated through SB 1543 in 2022 has been critical in building an effective statewide Universal Representation system

    Is this legal aid or part of the public criminal defense system? Why is a universal representation fund needed?

    No, this is neither Legal Aid nor part of the public criminal defense system. A Universal Representation fund is needed because deportation and immigration matters are civil law, not criminal law. 

    In immigration court, unlike in criminal court proceedings, immigrants facing deportation are not provided an attorney if they cannot afford one. All around the country, some of the most vulnerable members of our society, including children, are forced to defend themselves against deportation without a lawyer. While the government is always represented by trained prosecutors arguing for deportation, many immigrants are provided nothing more than telephone interpretation. 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, protect their family, and avoid deportation from the United States. Without legal representation, Oregonians who have a lawful right to remain in the United States are routinely deported.

    What are the eligibility requirements for someone to receive ECO services?

    Universal Representation services are available only to limited-income individuals, so all individuals are screened for income eligibility. For current eligibility guidelines please see our Get Legal Help page.

    How does Universal Representation benefit Oregon?

    When community members are deported without the opportunity to have their case fairly decided under the law, our communities, our schools, and our workforce are destabilized and community safety is undermined. By reducing civic exclusions, family separation, deportation, and detention based on race and ethnicity, Universal Representation promotes due process and equitable access to justice for Oregon’s immigrant communities of color and advances the collective prosperity of all Oregonians. 

    By ensuring that Oregonians with a lawful right to remain in the country are not unjustly deported, we are potentially adding an additional $40 million each year to our tax base. 

    The program protects the $1.4 billion undocumented immigrants spend each year in Oregon, and the investments we make in education and employers make in training in their workforce.

    Undocumented immigrants pay millions in taxes each year, and if they no longer live in Oregon, those tax dollars will no longer be paid to the state 

    Employers are often forced to replace workers who are unjustly deported. This program provides stability to Oregon’s workforce 

    Students enrolled in our schools are often forced to drop out after the detention or deportation of a family member. This program, which helps prevent unjust deportations, saves money by improving graduation rates.