MESSAGE FROM JANN

Our country and the ACLU are in a transformative moment, and I am honored to guide the ACLU of Oregon as interim executive director. 2019 was a huge year for civil liberties and civil rights in Oregon and nationwide — both in terms of the challenges we faced and the incredible victories we achieved.

Despite the attacks on our communities coming from the Trump administration, Oregon continues to push back and to push forward. With over 30,000 ACLU members statewide, elected officials take notice when our members take action. By coming together around our shared values of freedom, liberty, and fairness, Oregon can be a leader in the nation on the issues we care most about.

Because of your support and our collective strength, we were able to significantly move the needle on criminal justice reform, immigrants’ rights, voting rights, the rights of incarcerated people, the rights of transgender students, and more. Together, we passed landmark youth sentencing reform; we banned warrantless immigration arrests at Oregon courthouses; and we challenged the cruel conditions at the Douglas County Jail — just to name a few victories.

However, it should go without saying that we have much more to do in 2020 order to ensure that all Oregonians are treated fairly.

  • By raising the profile of prosecutorial power and abuse, we will push more voters to weigh in on district attorney elections next year.
  • We must continue to challenge policies that fuel over-criminalization and racial disparities while pursuing evidence-based solutions rather than long periods of incarceration.
  • We will defend our legislative victories from backlash ballot measures that aim to repeal our progress.
  • And of course, each of us will need to show up on Election Day 2020. ACLU Voters demand that candidates for public office commit to protect our democracy, end discrimination, and expand rights.

During these divisive times, I firmly believe that our most radical and effective advocacy will happen in our communities, in the state legislature, and on our ballots. Even as we are called on to defend our democracy, we must work to build inclusive movements that defend the rights and safety of vulnerable people and uplift the voices of those who are marginalized in our communities. That is what the ACLU of Oregon is focusing on, and I am grateful to have your continued support.

Thank you,

Jann Carson

POLICY

Our policy work enables us to stop or amend laws and policies hostile to civil liberties as well as to champion progressive policies that advance the rights of all Oregonians. Our team lobbies the state legislature, analyzes proposed legislation, and frequently submits critical testimony. We also monitor city and county proposals for major civil liberties violations.

Thousands of ACLU supporters took part in the fight for civil liberties and civil rights through our email Action Alerts to legislators, by meeting with lawmakers at our Lobby Day or with our Legislative Advocacy teams, and through testimony and letters to the editor. Together, we won major victories, showing that no matter who is in the White House, Oregon can continue to make advancements and be a beacon of hope.

Landmark youth sentencing reform

The highlight of the 2019 Legislative Session was a historic bill changing the way Oregon’s tries and sentences youth, shifting the focus to prevention and rehabilitation rather than just punishment and incarceration.

We worked together with a diverse coalition of 40 organizations and with a bipartisan group of legislators – like its champion Rep. Jackie Winters, who passed away shortly after the bill made it out of the statehouse – to pass SB 1008. It addresses many of the problems caused by Measure 11, passed in 1994, which required harsh penalties including mandatory minimum sentences and required youth as young as 15 to be charged and sentenced as adults for certain acts.

SB 1008 has four main updates. First, for youth charged in adult court, it establishes a “second look” hearing halfway through the sentence, where a judge can determine if they serve the remainder of their sentence under community-based supervision. Second, it places youth accused of any crimes in the juvenile justice system instead of the adult system – prosecutors will need to request a hearing in front of a judge to move a youth to the adult system. Third, it requires a review for youth with long sentences before being transferred to adult prison. Finally, it eliminates life without parole sentences for youth under 18.

DA accountability and transparency

In our April report, A Peek Behind the Curtain: Shining Some Light on District Attorney Policies in Oregon, we revealed that at least 40 percent of Oregon’s district attorneys do not have internal written policies to guide their core work within the justice system. HB 3224 creates a basic standard for transparency and accountability for Oregon’s DA offices, requiring every district attorney to have written policies for the core functions of their office and make them available to the public. This is a big win for accountability within our justice system.

Big wins for immigrants’ rights

With attacks on immigrants coming from the federal government, we are proud of our work at the statehouse, where we partnered with ally organizations like Causa to protect and advance immigrant rights here at home.

The biggest bill was the Equal Access to Roads Act, allowing all Oregon residents – regardless of citizenship status – access to a standard driver’s license. It is essential for all Oregonians to have access to driving privileges, regardless of their ability to provide documentation proving immigration status. No one should be separated from their families over a simple traffic stop, and this bill will benefit tens of thousands of our immigrant neighbors when the law is enacted in 2021.

We also helped pass SB 589, expanding in-state tuition for graduate programs for all Oregon high school graduates, including undocumented students, and SB 854, allowing all college grads access to appropriate work-licenses. And we also successfully fought for HB 2932 which ensures, in Oregon courts, people are not required to disclose their immigration status.

Limited death penalty

The death penalty is cruel, costly, and unjust. It denies due process of law, violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, and wastes taxpayer funds without any public safety benefit.

This session, we successfully fought for SB 1013, which limits the application of the death penalty in Oregon. Our long-term mission is fully end the death penalty and there is more work to be done, but this bill is a step in the right direction.

Humane treatment of incarcerated

Far too many people incarcerated in Oregon are held in conditions that threaten their health, safety, and human dignity on a daily basis. We used this legislative session to successfully fight for some fundamental rights.

We fought for SB 488, making sure all inmates have access to an annual flu shot – an important fix to avoid senseless death and suffering.

We fought for SB 498, which ensures no inmate will face excessive fees when making phone calls, because connection with loved ones is essential to the wellbeing of incarcerated Oregonians, their families, and communities.

Periods are a fact of life, so we fought for HB 2515 to ensure that all prisons provide menstrual hygiene products at no cost to inmates. Health and dignity must not be sacrificed in prison.

And we helped pass SB 495, prohibiting the use of dogs to intimidate, control, or punish people incarcerated in Oregon.

These rights and humane living conditions are crucial not only to respect the human rights and dignity of incarcerated individuals, but also to ensure that our system is focused on rehabilitation and promotes health and well-being.

 

POLICY BY THE #’s

Bills Reviewed

Bills Tracked

Bills Lobbied

Bills Supported That Passed

Bills Opposed That Died

Bills Successfully Amended

Bills Supported But Not Passsed

Bills Opposed that Passed

Hearings where we provided testimony

ICE out of Courthouses

Since the early days of the Trump Administration, our legal observers and public records requests have documented ICE agents in plain clothes stalking our courthouses throughout Oregon, profiling people of color, making warrantless arrests, and chilling access to justice for all. With partners Innovation Law Lab and Stoll Berne, and community groups, we have been fighting it ever since, and secured a major victory in November when Oregon’s Chief Justice Martha Walters issued a rule barring these warrantless arrests at courthouses.

Tasked with the administration of justice over criminal issues, domestic relationships, probate, and many other matters, Oregon state courts form a critical comp component of our civil society. As such, it is imperative that they be open to all Oregonians, including immigrants and people of color. With Justice Walters’ rule, Oregon became just the third state to issue statewide bans on ICE making civil arrests at state courthouses without judicial warrants.

One of the most high profile examples of ICE’s abhorrent behavior came at the Washington County Courthouse in 2017, when plain clothed agents at the court followed and stalked American citizen Isidro Andrade-Tafolla from the courthouse to his car, and illegally detained him. Andrade-Tafolla was simply there to support his wife in court, and the only resemblance to the person ICE claimed they mistook him for was the color of his skin. One of our legal observers recorded this encounter on video. This August, we filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act against ICE on behalf of Andrade-Tafolla demanding $100,000 in damages. The complaint is ongoing.

Rights of Trans students

We’re battling a meritless and mean lawsuit filed against the Dallas School District baselessly challenging the district’s correct policies that affirm the legal rights of transgener students in the district. We intervened in the case on behalf of Basic Rights Oregon.

In 2018, a U.S. District Court judge issued a motion to dismiss the case, finding that the school’s practice of allowing a trans student to use the same restrooms as other students was consistent with his gender identity does not violate the rights of cisgender students or parents. The court ruled in our favor, affirming that prohibiting trans students from using the same facilities as other students would likely be illegal discrimination.

The anti-trans group appealed this decision.

In July at the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals, we argued that the case was correctly dismissed. We’re making sure the judge’s ruling sticks as claims similar to this one have been routinely rejected by courts across the country.

Rights of
Protesters

In August, we filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland on behalf of Michelle Fawcett, who was permanently injured by the Portland Police Bureau during a protest one year earlier. Police shot off a flash-bang grenade into the crowd, hitting Fawcett in the arm as she was peacefully and legally standing on a downtown sidewalk and giving her third-degree chemical burns, major impact wounds, major soft-tissue damage, and mental and emotional distress.

“The police are supposed to protect and serve, but instead they shot me and other peaceful protesters with military-grade weapons,” she said. “At this critical time, I realize I must do what I can to ensure that people are free to gather together to exercise our First Amendment free-speech rights to reject racism, violence, and the rising tide of white nationalism and authoritarianism in our country and in our community.”

Supporting nonbinary Oregonians

In November, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals in support of nonbinary Eugene resident Jones Hollister, who was denied their petition for a gender marker change. Hollister is nonbinary, but like other nonbinary Lane County residents, Judge Charles D. Carlson denied their petition for the “X” gender marker they are entitled to under state law.

We teamed up with Basic Rights Oregon and nonbinary people from across the state to share their stories with the court. We also coordinated with the Transgender Law Center, InterACT, Beyond Binary Legal, and a group of Oregon law professors who also submitted briefs in Jones’ appeal.

Fighting For a Passport

Maria Soto, a daughter of immigrants from Mexico, was born in 1971 in the Los Angeles County Hospital. The southern Oregon resident is an American citizen, and she has all documents to prove it.

But the government – which a year earlier had created a “Denaturalization Task Force” – refuses to grant her a passport, telling her that her birth certificate and other documentation she submitted is “Insufficient.” In August, we sued the U.S. Department of State.

Maria is a citizen, but in the eyes of the Trump administration, her birth certificate is not enough. Her social security card is not enough. They are wrong. Maria is a citizen and is owed her passport, plain and simple, and we are suing to make sure she receives it.

Holding jails accountable

In February, Douglas County finally agreed to commit to necessary changes to resolve a lawsuit we brought do to the inhumane and unconstitutional conditions our client, Terri Carlisle, faced in its jail, agreeing to increased accountability and transparency measures intended to protect basic human rights.

We also sued the county’s medical services contractor, Correct Care Solutions, for denying her necessary medical care for longstanding nerve pain. That case is still ongoing.

LEGAL BY THE #’s

phone calls, emails, and letters

intake volunteer hours

Mobile Justice Videos

Mobile Justice Downloads

Cooperating Attorney hours

Amicus Briefs

Direct Rep Cases

FOIA and public records requests

letters regarding anti-panhandling ordinances

advocacy letters sent

THE RIGHT TO FILM THE POLICE

Bystander video has proven to be an important accountability measure against police brutality and excessive use-of-force. Our Mobile Justice app allows Oregonians to record police encounters and automatically send them to us to review. The app has been downloaded xxxxxx times. Videos from the app have been used as evidence in our lawsuits on behalf of protesters.

COMING TOGETHER IN SALEM

When legislators meet and hear from our members, they take notice. And this session, you had a huge impact. Hundreds came to Salem for our “Lobby Day” in February, learning about the issues and meeting with many lawmakers in small groups to advocate for our priority bills. We also created a Legislative Advocacy Team, with supporters meeting with lawmakers weekly. And thousands of you wrote postcards, made calls, and responded to our Action Alerts to urge our legislature to vote the right way.

When members get involved, it has a huge impact. The landmark youth justice reform bill, the district attorney accountability bill, and immigrants rights bills would not have been possible without the dedication of our members.

LEGAL OBSERVERS KEEPING WATCH

Everyone should be able to safely access justice at our courthouses, whether they are attending a hearing, paying a fine, reporting for jury duty, or serving as a witness. Unfortunately, ICE hasn’t seen it that way, regularly targeting our courts for immigration arrests.

Our trained legal observers – lawyers, advocates, ordinary community members – volunteer to keep watch to observe court proceedings and accompany people to court.

These volunteers played a critical part in Chief Justice Martha Walters banning ICE arrests at courthouses in Oregon. Their video and records were crucial to documenting the reality of ICE’s widespread abuse of justice throughout the state that likely would have gone unnoticed by the general public. Because of them, more people in Oregon can truly access justice.

Volunteers make things happen

Intake volunteers are often the first points of contact for people who believe their rights have been violated. They calls and review thousands of emails and letters and coordinate with our legal team or direct them to services throughout the state that could help their situation.

In 2019, our intake volunteers reviewed 2,200 phone calls, emails, and letters.

IN THE COMMUNITY

We love meeting and hearing from our members and supporters.

For the sake of good beer and civil rights, we ramped up our Pints & Rights events this year. In Hood River we gathered with community partners for a listening session and held a similar event in June in Bend. These free events provide a space where supporters can more deeply connect with the issues facing their communities today, while meeting other activists and our staff members.

In August, we held our annual meeting in Eugene. The meeting consisted of a wide-ranging discussions on the current state of civil rights and civil liberties in Oregon, and we reviewed our busy and successful work during the legislative session.

Hundreds of people flocked to the streets of downtown Portland with us in June for the Trans Pride March and Pride NW, marching through the streets with signs, flags, stickers, and loud voices celebrating LGBTQ2SIA+ Oregonians.

And we also held our fun Uncensored Celebration art show in October, celebrating free expression with posters created by more than a dozen amazing local artists and lots of great beer and food.

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