The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is stepping in to help defend a Latina woman charged with providing false information to TriMet officers during a fare inspection stop, calling it a "troubling case of profiling."
Ana del Rocío, whose legal name is Rosa Valderrama, was arrested by transit police in Multnomah County on March 13 after allegedly refusing to provide physical identification when she was stopped by TriMet officers.
Del Rocío told officers that her name was Ana del Rocío. TriMet says del Rocío refused to provide physical identification despite being told she would be arrested if she did not.
Del Rocío told the Portland Mercury that she has gone by Ana since childhood, adding it's common for Latinos to go by a name that differs from their legal name. She said she didn't feel safe to give officers more than her name and date of birth.
Now, the ACLU in conjunction with the attorneys of law firm Levi Merrithew Horst will defend del Rocío in the case, saying it has implications for civil and constitutional liberties.
"This doesn't just impact Ana and the Latinx community," said Mat dos Santos, legal director for the ACLU of Oregon. "It impacts trans people who may be using a name other than their legal name, so telling officers what your name can be used to criminalize you. All those issues will be at play."
The case will be prosecuted by the Marion County District Attorney in Multnomah County due to an uncited conflict of interest with the Multnomah County DA's office.
Dos Santos says TriMet disproportionately targets low-income and marginalized communities.
"I think the bottom line for this is that this prosecution is a huge waste of money," dos Santos said. "It's not about justice or community safety in any way; it's about TriMet and the DA profiling a woman of color."
TriMet's independent review found no systemic racial bias in the agency's current fare enforcement operations, though community outreach efforts found unwanted consequences when citations go into the court system.