A National Leader in Universal Representation
The immigration system is racialized, unfair, and difficult to navigate by design. Universal legal representation helps keep families and communities whole by providing access to immigration legal services. For people facing deportation, whether or not they have legal representation often determines the success of their case. Without representation, a person in removal proceedings is 5.5 times more likely to lose their case and be ordered removed from the United States, regardless of the merits of their case. Many people in removal proceedings have valid legal claims to remain here and continue to contribute to their community, but they have no way to articulate these claims without legal assistance.
When immigrant Oregonians are deported, our entire state suffers. If a family’s breadwinner is deported, family members face housing and food insecurity. Children must cope with the incredible trauma of family separation, with long-lasting psychological impacts. Children’s school attendance and performance are also negatively affected, increasing their likelihood of dropping out and earning significantly less as adults.
By the Numbers
Universal Representation continues the work of a pilot program, funded by Multnomah County, the City of Portland, and the State of Oregon, which has provided attorney access to immigrant Oregonians facing deportation since October 2018. As of early 2023, under the program
- 2,700+ individual Oregonians have enrolled in the program and have received services
- 600+ of total enrollees were added since March, 2022, when SB1543 was enacted
- 750+ Oregonians who faced violence or persecution were empowered to request asylum
- 350+ Oregonians have applied for work authorization
Passing Universal Representation in Oregon
In 2022, after years of grassroots advocacy by the immigrant community and immigrant justice organizations, the Oregon Legislature passed a law to bring us closer to achieving universal legal representation.
With the passage of SB 1543, the state legislature approved the establishment of Universal Representation for immigrant Oregonians. 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.
Funding allocated through SB 1543 in 2022 has been critical in building an effective statewide Universal Representation system:
- When new immigrant Oregonians have arrived to our state, Universal Representation has been able to help them navigate the complex immigration system, providing services that are critical to folks fleeing violence, persecution and extreme poverty.
- Universal Representation has successfully launched detained legal services and provided representation to 11 Oregonians in the last quarter.
- A centralized statewide call center has been created to provide immigrant Oregonians with updates on their active cases.