ACLU of Oregon Blog

Portland Dreamer is Reunited with his Family, For Now — But this Won't be the Last Heartbreaking Story Under Trump's ICE

By Sarah Armstrong, Communications and Outreach Director

Francisco reunited with familyMarch 28, 2017 - Last night, Francisco Rodriguez Dominguez, a 25-year-old “dreamer” from Portland, was reunited with his family after being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Their emotional reunion was possible because people came together to resist the risky constitutional actions of President Trump’s immigration agents and to say loudly that they cannot take one of our own without a fight.  

Francisco is an Oregonian. He lives in the neighborhood he grew up in, graduated from Reynolds High School, and attends Mt. Hood Community College. He volunteers at his church, coaches an elementary school soccer team, and works at a food pantry that serves low income families. His family is in Oregon. His friends are in Oregon. Which is why it was shocking to learn that federal immigration agents, without a warrant and without any cause, raided his home on Sunday morning.

READ MORE >>

Terrorism and the First Amendment

by Mat dos Santos, Legal Director

lone protesters faces line of police in PortlandMarch 7, 2017 - The United States government considered Nelson Mandela a terrorist until 2008. Mandela was a designated terrorist eighteen years after he was released from prison; fifteen years after he won the Nobel peace prize; and, fourteen years after he was elected President of South Africa.

Let that sink in for a moment.

In 1962, the US government considered Mandela to be “the most dangerous communist” outside of the then Soviet Union. It was subsequently revealed that a CIA agent provided the South African government with the information necessary to apprehend him and land him in prison for twenty-seven years.

The indignity suffered by Mandela during every visit to the United States—as a “terrorist” he had to get special clearance to enter the country—was finally wiped clean by an act of Congress just five years before he died. 

Nelson Mandela, and his organizing in South Africa, was not protected by the First Amendment, a freedom afforded by the U.S Constitution only to those in the United States. But we should not forget that Angela Davis, Malcom X, and yes, even the now-beloved Martin Luther King Jr. were at varying times labeled enemies of the state during their struggle against segregation in the United States. The First Amendment protected their organizing. But it did not stop our federal law enforcement agencies from watching, labeling, and arresting them. We are fortunate that these heroes of racial justice did not cower when faced with jail time, but instead spoke louder.

Late last week, we learned that people in Portland organizing against police killings of Black men, white nationalist politicians, and the countless systems of racism throughout our local, state, and federal governments are now considered “domestic terrorists” by Department of Homeland Security. Why? Because the Portland Police Bureau labeled the November 10, 2016 protest a “riot.” 

READ MORE >>

Poll: Oregonians strongly support reducing drug sentences

March 1, 2017 — Oregon voters overwhelmingly support a proposal to reduce penalties for drug possession, according to a new poll.

The poll comes as a new bill, Oregon HB 2355, supported by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon,) would change small-scale drug possession to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

“The war on drugs has failed,” said David Rogers, the executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “It has damaged families and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. A felony conviction for small-scale drug use is too harsh because it ruins people’s lives. Oregonians are ready for a smarter approach. This bill is our chance to win one, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure it passes.” 



READ MORE >>

The Constitution Doesn't Allow Businesses to Discriminate

by Mat dos Santos, Legal Director

August 29, 2016 - No one should be turned away from a business just because of who they are. When Sweet Cakes co-owner Aaron Klein refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, he broke Oregon anti-discrimination laws. Discrimination is degrading, and harms not only the individual or targeted group, but society as a whole. Our state has a long-standing tradition of protecting people from businesses that discriminate because Oregonians value fairness and equality.

sign that reads open for business open for all;

And let’s be real, selling a wedding cake doesn’t mean a business owner is endorsing a marriage, or agreeing with everything the customer believes. It simply means they are providing services to the public, and that their business is open to everyone on the same terms. For many of us, this is just the Golden Rule — treating others as we would like to be treated — but, it is also required by law in Oregon and elsewhere.

The Kleins have argued that they should be able to discriminate against same-sex couples and, presumably, anyone else their personal religion disfavors. They say that some of our most fundamental freedoms, the freedoms of speech and religion, give them a license to discriminate.

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are fundamental rights protected by the Oregon and federal constitutions. But those freedoms don’t allow any of us to harm others.

READ MORE >>

New Laws Target and Punish the Poor in Oregon

By Heather Marek, Legal Intern

person with signJuly 27, 2016 - In recent years, poverty and homelessness have deepened throughout the country, and Oregon has not been immune. According to HUD, between 2014 and 2015, the number of homeless Oregonians increased nine percent, the third highest increase nationwide. In that same time, Oregon experienced the largest growth of any state in its chronically homeless population: sixty percent. Due to a severe shortage of affordable housing and the high number of residents with no place to call home, Oregon cities including Eugene and Portland have declared a housing and homelessness “state of emergency”.

In Oregon and elsewhere, the response to this crisis has been to further criminalize homelessness, making it against the law to engage in basic life-sustaining activities. Between 2011 and 2014, there was a spike in the number of cities nationwide that outlawed camping (60 percent), sleeping in vehicles (119 percent), sitting or lying down in particular places (43 percent), begging (25 percent), and loitering and vagrancy (35 percent). These laws have been the focus of national and international scrutiny, receiving condemnation by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the UN Human Rights Committee.

READ MORE >>

Anti-Immigrant Ballot Measures Fail to Qualify in Oregon

By David Rogers, Executive Director

'immigrant rights are civil rights' signJuly 19, 2016 - Earlier this year, I told you that we were fighting three anti-immigrant ballot initiatives that were the work of the extremist group, Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR,) and their allies. Today, I am happy to tell you that all three measures failed to qualify for the 2016 ballot. 

However, our work is not over. OFIR has vowed to return next election cycle with their anti-immigrant agenda. Through their deep ties to white nationalist groups and funders, OFIR will continue to target immigrant families in Oregon.

READ MORE >>

#BlackLivesMatter Tracked by Oregon DOJ with Social Media Monitoring Software

by Kimberly McCullough, Legislative Director

privacy and tech imageMay 4, 2016 - As we’ve previously written about, analysts at the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) used a tool called Digital Stakeout to surveil people who used over 30 hashtags on social media, including #BlackLivesMatter and #fuckthepolice. Erious Johnson, director of the Oregon DOJ’s own Department of Civil Rights, was scooped up in this illegal dragnet and targeted for a threat assessment which included a review of hundreds of his personal tweets; a memo to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum flagging him as a potential threat to law enforcement; and an internal investigation into the matter which found that the search was “not in compliance” with state law and revealed a culture of self-reinforcing bias in the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon DOJ. 

Today, I want to take a closer look at Digital Stakeout, the tool the DOJ used to conduct these searches. Digital Stakeout is social media monitoring software (SMMS) that can be used to covertly monitor, collect, and analyze our social media data from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. It is part of a rapidly expanding industry that the public knows little about. The goal here is to answer a few basic questions about SMMS: What can the technology do? How widespread is the use of SMMS by law enforcement in Oregon? What privacy concerns does it raise? And how we can protect free speech and privacy moving forward?

READ MORE >>

The Oregon DOJ Trains Agents on How to Break the Law

by Mat dos Santos, Legal Director

Mat dos Santos photoApril 13, 2016 - After about five months of waiting, the Oregon Department of Justice (“DOJ”) released its internal human resources investigation conducted by the special assistant attorney general looking into the surveillance of people on Twitter using #BlackLivesMatter. The report is damning. It paints an abysmal picture of rampant misinformation beginning with agents and analysts and running all the way up to the deputy attorney general, and shows how one mistake in judgment can lead to dangerous consequences for the public. 

If you’ve already read the report and exhibits, you know that the special assistant attorney general calls for changes in the DOJ's hiring to reflect a more diverse work force, as well as additional training on the laws DOJ agents broke when they collected information about the public’s political views. But you may have missed a critical piece of information that is buried near the very end of the over 150 pages of exhibits. DOJ’s very own training on this issue is fundamentally flawed. DOJ is teaching its agents how to break the law. 

READ MORE >>

DOJ's Bubble of Bias

by David Rogers, Executive Director

public enemy logoApril 13, 2016 - The special assistant attorney general finally released the long awaited report on Oregon Department of Justice’s surveillance of people using the Black Lives Matter hashtag among others. The report and the 162 page appendix is disturbing and reveals a range of deeply troubling issues about the Criminal Justice Division of DOJ, so much so, that we decided we needed to tackle it in separate posts.

I want to take a moment to explore what we learned about the implications of law enforcement’s echo chamber of prejudice and shallow cultural knowledge.

You may have already seen the media delight in the fact that DOJ analysts mistook Public Enemy’s logo as a sign of an imminent threat to law enforcement. (Public Enemy was a hip hop group popular in the late 80s and 90s whose music infused commentary about the political and social experience of Black Americans. “Fear of a Black Planet” still stands as one of my top ten hip hop albums of all time.)

As the DOJ was illegally examining the Twitter feed of one their own employees snared in the DOJ’s electronic surveillance of people who used the Black Lives Matter hashtag in Salem, the agent saw the Public Enemy logo with words from one of their live albums: “Consider Yourselves Warned!!!” Apparently, this image stood out along with a range of other satirical, political cartoons, and images even though these images are easily found on social media sites belonging to hundreds of thousands of reasonably politicized People of Color. The next thing that happened was a threat assessment report was written and went all the way to the desk of Oregon’s attorney general. Wait! What?

READ MORE >>

Internal DOJ Report Leaves Us with More Questions than Answers on the Surveillance of Black Lives Matter in Oregon

by David Rogers

David Rogers photoYesterday a report on the surveillance of Black Lives Matter in Oregon was released by the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). The report confirmed what we learned back in November: that an agent who works for the Criminal Division of DOJ was testing a surveillance program, called Digital Stakeout, by searching various key words, including #BlackLivesMatter. The agent then mistook posts from DOJ’s own director of civil rights, including a post of a Public Enemy logo and political cartoons, as a threat to law enforcement and wrote a memo that was passed all the way up the chain of command to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum before it was, finally, rejected as dangerous, racial profiling. The attorney general hired an outside attorney to conduct an independent investigation of the matter to determine if policies or laws were violated.

After reading through the report and looking through the exhibits, we are left with more questions than answers. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the lack of awareness that was revealed of both the law and of what might constitute a threat. This is not only shameful, but also dangerous. Given the power that they wield, I am dismayed at the state of the Criminal Justice Division and afraid for the Oregonians that are supposed to be protected by them. Self-reinforced bias, against protesters, black people, and who knows who else, has left the agency ill-equipped to do their job.

READ MORE >>