Racial Justice

The ACLU has been working for racial justice since the founding of the organization in 1920. The ACLU of Oregon’s racial justice work cuts across many areas, including criminal justice, education, free speech, immigrants’ rights, national security, police practices and religious freedom.

Guaranteeing liberty and justice for all requires us to address not only overt discrimination, but also those government policies and practices that result in disproportionate impacts related to race and ethnicity. For example, data collected over many years by some Oregon police agencies consistently has shown that African-American and Latino drivers stopped for traffic violations are more likely to be subjected to discretionary searches by police officers, but that police are less likely to find evidence of a crime in those searches than when the vehicles of white drivers are searched. This type of racial profiling may or may not be intentional on the part of police officers, but the impact on real people is harsh and inequitable.

Similar disparities exist throughout the educational and criminal justice systems in Oregon. Indeed, the ACLU’s review of discipline in Oregon public schools has shown that many students of color are more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterparts, and a similarly disproportionate number of students of color are tangled in our youth justice system. We refer to this trend as the school-to-prison pipeline.

ACLU Report: Oregon’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Update

Actualización: Camino de la Escuela a la Prisión en Oregón

July 1, 2013 – The ACLU Foundation of Oregon today issued a follow-up report confirming that many students of color in Oregon public schools continue to be more frequently expelled or suspended than their white peers.

The ACLU report, based on 2011-12 data reported by school districts to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), indicates that the statewide disparity is most dramatic for African-American students. For example, African-American students represent 2.5% of the student population statewide, but received 6.5% of all out-of-school suspensions.



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.



Thinking Outside the Box

Past criminal history shouldn’t limit job opportunitiesEmployment app

We strongly support the "Ban the Box" bill - HB 3025 , which helps to remove roadblocks to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. This bill would prevent employers from asking prospective employees about past criminal histories on job applications until after a conditional offer of employment is made.

After serving their debt to society, many ex-offenders are denied the opportunity to work based solely on their conviction. This makes it difficult if not impossible for individuals with a criminal record to re-enter society successfully and be able to earn a living. With a criminal justice system that is dominated by racial disparities, people of color are disproportionately harmed by employers’ criminal background check procedures.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), more than 650,000 individuals are released from prison every year. One of the key elements they identified for successful re-entry into our communities is helping these individuals find and keep a job. If ex-offenders are to succeed as law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, they must have a chance at finding employment – particularly in this tough economic climate.


ACLU Endorses New Approach Campaign to Regulate and Legalize Marijuana

June 17, 2014 - “We need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars arresting and searching people in Oregon just because they use marijuana,” said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon. “Prohibition hasn’t worked and it never will. It’s time to be honest about that and take a path that makes sense.”

The New Approach Oregon campaign is collecting signatures to qualify an initiative for the November ballot. The initiative would strictly regulate marijuana sales and possession, legalize the use of marijuana by adults 21 and over only, and tax marijuana and its products, generating money for important public services like education, public safety and drug treatment



Records Requests Filed Regarding DOJ Surveillance of Black Lives Matter

By Mat dos Santos, Legal Director 
Black Lives Matter protestorNovember 13, 2015 – Yesterday, the ACLU of Oregon filed records requests to the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ), Oregon’s Titan Fusion Center, and the United States Department of Justice, including the FBI. We are seeking information regarding the extent of the DOJ's surveillance including questions about the technology that was used, what information was collected, and who was profiled by the department.

In an interview with OPB this week, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum confirmed that a DOJ investigator used an online, subscription-based tool called “Digital Stakeout.” The Digital Stakeout website touts its product as a threat intelligence platform and says users can “search by keyword, hashtag, location, meta-data and more.” Rosenblum revealed that in addition to searching for Black Lives Matter, other searches were performed, including searches for the hashtag, ‘F - the police.’

As these statements reveal, this was more than just a search of hashtags on the internet. We have some preliminary answers, but we also have many more questions. Why was a Black-led social movement used as a jumping-off point for ‘anti-police sentiment’? How did the investigation of the DOJ’s own Civil Rights Division director go so far? Who else was swept up in this dragnet?


Letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Regarding Surveillance of #BlackLivesMatter

November 10, 2015

Attorney General Rosenblum:

We, the undersigned, have been notified that the Oregon Department of Justice has conducted digital surveillance on Oregonians because of their use of the Black Lives Matter hashtag on social media.