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 Between the 1920s and the 1970s, these various provisions were repealed.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.



Remember Our History: Create Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon

Minoru Yasui

VICTORY! Bill to Honor Oregon Hero Minoru Yasui Passes Oregon Legislature Unanimously

UPDATE: February 24, 2016 - A bill honoring the struggle and legacy of Oregonian Minoru “Min” Yasui, who fought against the internment of Japanese Americans, passed unanimously through both the Oregon Senate and House. The legislation designates March 28 of each year as Minoru Yasui Day. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

“With so much anti-immigrant rhetoric in the news, it’s refreshing that Oregon legislators came together across the aisle to support Minoru Yasui Day,” said Kimberly McCullough, ACLU of Oregon’s legislative director. “Min’s story is a reminder that we must remain vigilant to protect freedom for all people.”

1,393 supporters signed an ACLU of Oregon petition to create Minoru Yasui Day.

“Minoru Yasui has made all Oregonians and all Americans proud,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D - Salem, after the unanimous vote today.


Equal Protection: YES on Measure 88 - Driver Card (2014)

The ACLU of Oregon’s work is rooted in the notion that all persons in Oregon deserve protection under the law and the right to be free from discrimination. We also believe that the purpose of requiring that every driver be licensed should be to ensure that drivers know the rules of the road, have liability insurance and have the skills to drive safely – not to act as a proxy for enforcement of federal immigration law.

We strongly opposed the changes to Oregon law in 2007 that added the requirement for all Oregon driver license applicants and renewals to provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S. Measure 88 is a common sense measure designed to make our roads and communities more safe by creating a limited purpose and limited duration driver “card” that would be available to those that would otherwise qualify for a license but, for whatever reason, cannot “prove” their lawful presence in the U.S.



Sheriffs Suspend ICE Holds

April 17, 2014 - With their announcement that they intend to suspend the practice of honoring requests from federal immigration enforcement to hold individuals in their jail without probable cause, Sheriffs in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties acted today for the benefit of public safety in their communities. The ACLU applauds their action.

“We have long advocated that honoring warrantless ICE detainers is unlawful and also makes law enforcement’s job harder because it destroys trust in the community,” said David Fidanque, Executive Director. “We are thrilled that these Sheriffs are taking note of recent court decisions and abandoning a practice we believe violates state law and both the Oregon and United States Constitution.”

An “ICE detainer”—or “immigration hold”—has been a controversial tool use by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely to apprehend individuals who come in contact with local and state law enforcement agencies. An ICE detainer is a written request that a local jail or other law enforcement agency detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after his or her release date, for the convenience of ICE agents so that they can decide whether to take the individual into federal custody and begin formal deportation proceedings. The detainers generally are not accompanied with a warrant based on probable cause.


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.”