Immigrants' Rights

Since the nation’s founding, more than 55 million immigrants from every continent have settled in the United States. With the exception of Native Americans, everyone living in this country is either an immigrant or the descendent of voluntary or involuntary immigrants.

Every wave of immigration in the United States has faced fear and hostility, especially during times of economic hardship, political turmoil, or war.

The United States Constitution does not give foreigners the right to enter the U.S. but once here, it protects them from government discrimination based on race and national origin. Immigrants work and pay taxes. Many immigrants have lived in this country for decades, married U.S. citizens, raised their U.S.-citizen children and served in the military. Laws that punish them violate their fundamental right to fair and equal treatment.

The ACLU has been one of the nation’s leading advocates for the rights of immigrants, refugees and non-citizens, challenging unconstitutional laws and practices, countering the myths upon which these laws are based.

Immigrants’ Rights in Oregon
Oregon’s original Constitution protected only white males, both immigrant and native born. It gave property rights only to white foreigners, barred African Americans from moving to the state, and specifically prohibited African Americans and Chinese Americans from the right to vote. Between the 1920s and the 1970s, these various provisions were repealed.

In 1987, with the help of the ACLU and other advocacy groups, the Oregon legislature passed ORS 181.850 which prohibits local law enforcement officers from enforcing federal immigration laws that target people based on their race or ethnic origin when those individuals are not suspected of any criminal activities.

The ACLU of Oregon has been an outspoken critic of anti-terrorism measures passed since September 11, 2001 that unfairly single out immigrants.


ACLU Challenges Multnomah County Sheriff's Office for Unlawful Imprisonment

September 5, 2012 - The ACLU Foundation of Oregon filed a lawsuit today against the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office for unlawfully detaining a Portland resident at the request of federal immigration officers despite a judge’s order releasing him on his state charges.


Judge Overturns Anti-Immigrant Measure

Measure 5-190 Exceeded Columbia County Jurisdiction and Violates Federal Law

UPDATE: July 2009 – The court entered the ACLU’s proposed summary judgment order and general judgment on May 28, 2009.

April 13, 2009, St. Helens - A Columbia County judge today overturned an anti-immigrant ballot measure approved last fall because it conflicts with federal immigration law and would have required the county to take enforcement actions beyond its authority.



Coalition Responds to Opponents of Oregon’s Bipartisan Driver Card Law Turning in Signatures for Referendum

Oregon Safe Roads Coalition to monitor signature verification process and stay vigilant in protecting the public safety law

October 7, 2013 – Last week, opponents of SB 833, a bipartisan law passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013 that directs the Department of Transportation to issue driver cards to Oregonians who pass a driver’s test and provide proof of Oregon residency, submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in an effort to repeal the law.

The Oregon Safe Roads Coalition, made up of leaders from the business, law enforcement, and faith communities, express disappointment in SB 833 opponents’ attempt to repeal the bipartisan law by confusing the issue and causing a delay in its implementation.

SB 833 is a common sense, public safety measure designed to improve traffic safety and reduce the number of unlicensed and uninsured motorists on Oregon’s roads. 


EQUAL PROTECTION: Restore Driving Privileges to Immigrants in Oregon (SB 833) (2013)

Since 2007, when then Governor Ted Kulongoski signed an Executive Order to require proof of lawful presence as a condition of obtaining a driver license, thousands of people in Oregon have been faced with the terrible choice between not driving to school, work, and medical appointments, or driving unlicensed with an ever-present fear of being pulled over. With the harmful and ongoing entanglement between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement, a routine traffic stop could lead to deportation proceedings, making this choice for unlicensed Oregonians even more high-stakes.



Supreme Court Rebukes Arizona S.B. 1070, but Leaves Unanswered Constitutionality of “Show Me Your Papers” Provision

Oregon groups, law enforcement respond to Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona’s Racial Profiling Law SB1070

Press Conference

June 25, 2012 – Oregon civil rights groups applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s outright rejection of most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. However, the Court’s wait-and-see approach to the “Show Me Your Papers” provision is a mistake that jeopardizes the rights of individuals around the country. It is utterly foreseeable that this law will result in racial profiling and unnecessary detention for people in Arizona.

“Racial profiling laws make us less safe,” said Francisco Lopez, Causa’s Executive Director. “When people are unfairly singled out based on their appearance, it increases fear and distrust of law enforcement leaving crime victims and witnesses less likely to assist police or cooperate with investigations.”


ACLU Joins Network of Advocates Calling for Release of May Day Activist

May 3, 2012 - Ricardo Valera was arrested at Portland’s May Day March on Tuesday while peaceably exercising his First Amendment rights. All of Ricardo’s criminal charges have been dropped, yet today he remains in Multnomah County Jail where the Sheriff continues to hold him at the request of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

This afternoon the ACLU signed on to a letter with other members of the ACT Network for Justice and Dignity, calling for the Sheriff to immediately release Ricardo. The ACT Network is a collection of individuals and organizations who advocate for an end to collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement. Referencing a recent Resolution passed by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners that expressed great concern for the devastating effect on families and on our community of ICE policies, today’s letter to the Sheriff urged him to follow the lead of the Commissioners by refusing to do ICE’s dirty work.