Immigrant Defense Oregon

Removal Defense

You have the right to an attorney at no expense to the government.
— Code of Federal Regulations: Aliens and Nationality | 8 C.F.R.§1240.10(a)(1) (2017)


Immigrant Defense Oregon's project centers around stopping and preventing the deportation of Oregon's immigrant communities. The most critical and unmet need for immigrants in the Portland community is access to counsel when placed in removal proceedings. 


Immigrant Defense Oregon offers consultations and representation for persons placed in removal proceedings who cannot afford an attorney. We have taken on the individual representation of cases coming from community partners and within MPD. We also collaborate with the Center of Excellence, the national initiative launched through Innovation Law Lab, to represent asylum seekers in their removal proceedings at the Portland Immigration Court.

Beyond direct representation, IDO also provides free consultations through partnerships with Multnomah County and participating community organizations to persons in removal proceedings or who are at risk of being placed in these proceedings. Consultations focus on preparation for possible ICE arrest and detention, removal proceedings, their rights throughout, as well as reviewing possible forms of relief available to them.


When the government wants to deport someone, they are typically placed in removal proceedings before an immigration judge. An attorney for the federal government will prosecute the case and the judge will decide whether to deport the person, or grant them relief.

Nationally, only 37% of immigrants in removal proceedings are represented by an attorney.

There is no guaranteed right to counsel in these proceedings, which means if someone cannot afford legal representation, they will be forced to navigate this incredibly complex legal process on their own - in many cases dooming their case to failure. It is very common for a person to be deported without ever having representation in the matter.

The deck is stacked against unrepresented persons facing removal. Not only is immigration law an especially complicated area of the law, but they are up against an attorney representing the federal government whose only job is to prosecute deportations.

Among Portland's completed cases in 2016, only SEVEN out of hundreds of unrepresented cases were granted relief from deportation.

Even if the government’s attorney proves that the person is removable, that person still has the opportunity to argue for relief from deportation. However, they must apply for it and prove they are both eligible and deserving of it – a difficult task for any attorney, much less someone with no legal background or training. Without the help of an attorney, the chances an immigrant will even ASK for relief plummets.

Detained immigrants with counsel were nearly 11 times more likely to seek relief from deportation than those without representation.

Further, a well-documented study has shown that the likelihood success in removal proceedings vastly increases if they have legal representation. These numbers paint a dire picture, and these were before the recent shift in national immigration enforcement. Now under the new administration, there is an unprecedented effort to pursue all cases to their completion as quickly as possible. Without the help of attorneys, unrepresented individuals will be deported at even higher numbers than we’ve seen previously. Now, more than ever there is a need for universal representation at the Portland Immigration Court.