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Portland’s new legal aid program helps nearly 450 immigrants

August 21, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A free legal assistance program for immigrants in Portland, Oregon, has provided about 450 immigrants and asylum-seekers with lawyers to represent them in deportation hearings in its first year and now has additional support from the state.

The program called Universal Reception helped 341 immigrants with free legal assistance, as well as 105 people who wanted to apply for refugee status, the initiative’s director, Stephen Manning, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday.

Portland’s City Council approved the service last year and put $500,000 toward its budget from property tax collections.

This year, Multnomah County allocated $290,000 to the initiative, and the state approved an additional $2 million to expand the service statewide — the first state to do so in the nation.

The people who have received free legal services through the program come from Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, Russia, Ukraine and Venezuela, according to the newspaper, which reviewed city records.

Twenty-three of the people served were unaccompanied immigrant children, said Manning, the founder and director of the Innovation Law Lab.

The program is run through the Equity Corps of Oregon, with lawyers provided by nonprofits Catholic Charities of Oregon, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Immigration Counseling Service, Innovation Law Lab and Metropolitan Public Defender.

The results of the legal aid are unclear. The Oregonian/OregonLive could not verify the Universal Representation program’s work because immigration court records are not open to the public.

Supporters say access to free legal help can make a difference in the outcome of an immigrant’s deportation hearing.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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