Immigrant and Refugee Legal Help

Distrust of the government, fears of deportation and struggles to communicate English make immigrant residents more vulnerable than their U.S.-born neighbors. Immigrant workers are more vulnerable to wage theft. Immigrant women in the country illegally are more likely to remain in violent relationships. And undocumented defendants are more likely to have their case play out while they sit behind bars.

The Oregon Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has a powerful cadre of dedicated and passionate attorneys.

Residents seeking guidance can also find out about upcoming free legal clinics HERE.

There are plenty of other legal and immigration resources in the list we maintain at Multco Global.

Below are the highlights.

Immigrant Victims of Crime

The Oregon Department of Justice's Crime Victims' Services Division convenes a statewide committee to discuss issues affecting immigrant victims of crime and maintains an updated page of resources for immigrants and their advocates.  

Immigrant victims of some crimes, who agree to help law enforcement pursue a conviction, are eligible to apply for a visa to remain in the country legally. It doesn't matter whether the victim came to the U.S. through legal means or not. The program is called a U-Visa.

Multnomah County Sheriff's deputy Keith Bickford
Multnomah County Sheriff's deputy Keith Bickford

The Multnomah County Sheriffs' Office has a detective dedicated to serving immigrant victims of Crime. Keith Bickford doesn't speak a second language, but this tireless advocate is familiar with pulling in interpreters. Reach him by phone at 503-988-5117 or by email at 

Bickford works with the following local agencies to help immigrant victims file U-Visa applications:

Immigrant Defendants

When a person is arrested and charged with a crime, he can often post bail and remain free while the investigation and plea negotiation play out. That is less likely to be the case for a defendant who does not have legal status on the U.S.

Regardless of a person's legal status in the country, defendants who speak a language other than English have a right to a court-certified or qualified interpreter at all stages of the criminal investigation and prosecution in Oregon.

Defense lawyers are required to tell their clients when accepting a plea could effect their immigration status and to advise their clients on how to mitigate immigration consequences. Many people might be surprised to learn the scope of charges that can lead to deportation - a crime defined as an Aggravated Felony could simply be filing a false tax return. Another example from the Immigrant Justice Network is a conviction of misdemeanor shoplifting with a one-year sentence.

The Metropolitan Public Defender launched its Padilla Project to provide criminal defense attorneys advice about how a potential conviction could affect their clients' immigration status.   

Immigrant Worker Rights

Non-citizens are more vulnerable to wage theft, violations of safe working conditions and workplace discrimination. Low-income workers seeking help with issues of discrimination and harassment, wage disputes, or unsafe working conditions have options.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) is a state agency that protects employees. It enforces laws on minimum wage, overtime, working conditions, child labor, farm and forest labor contracting, and wage collection. BOLI also has a Civil Rights Division. It enforces laws on equal access to jobs and protect workers from discrimination, harassment, safety violations. And it protects those seeking housing or using public facilities like buses. Complaint and claim forms are available in English and Spanish. BOLI has staff who speak Spanish, Arabic and Kurdish, and will contact an interpreter for any language requested.

Workers can also reach out to the following three nonprofit groups of layers with a multi-lingual staff familiar working on for immigrant clients:

Advocacy groups also focus on helping immigrant workers receive fair and legal treatment. Here are two:

  • VOZ, a The Portland-based nonprofit, has teamed up with Lewis & Clark Law School students to help migrant and day laborers recover unpaid wages.
  • PCUN, One of the state's oldest migrant worker rights group, is based in Woodburn and helps farm workers organize and advocate for fair wages and safe working conditions.

The Portland Immigration Court is on the fifth floor at 1220 SW 3rd Ave.