Oregon Locales Give $1 Million to Criminal Alien Legal Fund
By Colton R. Overcash | October 4, 2018
On September 19, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to contribute $500,000 towards a new dedicated legal fund known as the Universal Representation Project (URP). The URP, which was included in the regular agenda as Item 986 by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), is a so-called grant program that pays for “high quality immigration legal services” for illegal aliens facing deportation.
The URP, according to an audio recording of Mayor Wheeler at the city council meeting, “will delay action and support people who are at risk of removal here in Oregon.” By approving Item 986, the city council “has prioritized these resources so [illegal aliens in] our community can receive the representation that they deserve” and remain in Oregon, said Mayor Wheeler in a press statement following the meeting.
However, as explained by FAIR, providing taxpayer-funded representation to illegal aliens undermines federal law. Federal law expressly prohibits governments from funding the legal representation of illegal aliens in removal proceedings. Aliens who wish to be represented by legal counsel are free to do so, but federal law specifies that it must be at no cost to the taxpayers. (See. 8 U.S.C. 1229a(b)(4)); 8 U.S.C. 1362).
Despite this, the city council proceeded with funding the URP nevertheless. However, the adoption of the URP is not unprecedented in Oregon. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to create its own legal aid fund in 2017. Since then, Multnomah County legal fund has increased from $100,000 to $500,000 after it entered into a partnership with the City of Portland on the URP. This partnership between the city and county brings the URP’s total budget to $1 million.
FAIR already designated both Portland and Multnomah County as sanctuary jurisdictions in its 2017 report. The URP partnership simply expands on the sanctuary policies of each locale and Oregon’s sanctuary law. (See 2017 ORS 181A.820). They also join approximately 30 jurisdictions who have created similar legal aid funds for illegal aliens.
The taxpayer-funded URP does not come without consequences, however. These funds are drawn from the general operating budget for the city and county, which also pays for law enforcement, first responders, and social services. This new expenditure could result in budget cuts elsewhere or a tax increase, which puts essential city and county services at risk. In addition to the added tax burdens, it also prioritizes illegal aliens over American citizens.