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Crime, Law & Justice

Program That Offers Free Legal Representation To Immigrants Expands Statewide

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A program that offers free attorneys for immigrants at risk of deportation in Oregon is now available statewide. It’s called “Equity Corps,” and for the past year it was only available to people in the Portland area. 

As of this month, the program has expanded statewide. Equity Corps helps connect low-income immigrants facing deportation proceedings with experienced attorneys who are willing to work for free.

Ramon Valdez of the Innovation Law Lab in Portland said immigrants are going up against federal immigration agencies that have plenty of legal staff. “That disparity has created a lot of problems for folks who can’t afford a lawyer,” he said.

Valdez said Equity Corps helped some 400 people in the Portland area in its first year. The expansion happened because Oregon lawmakers approved funding to take the program statewide.

He said the program is apparently the only one of its kind in the country. "We're really proud of Oregon," he said. "Other folks are looking at us and wanting to replicate it already."