Press Release: Civil Rights Groups Charge that ICE Disregards Immigrants’ Medical, Mental Health Needs and Ignores Discrimination Against Immigrants with Disabilities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 19, 2019 Civil Rights Groups Charge that ICE Disregards Immigrants’ Medical, Mental Health Needs and Ignores Discrimination Against Immigrants with Disabilities New Nationwide Class Action Lawsuit Highlights Abusive Isolation, Horrific Medical and Mental Health Care, and Denial of Accommodations to and Discrimination Against Detained Immigrants with Disabilities Los Angeles —A nationwide class action lawsuit was filed today against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and others acting in their official capacities.  The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s failure to ensure detained immigrants receive appropriate medical and mental health care, its punitive use of segregation in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and its failure to ensure that detained immigrants with disabilities are provided accommodations and do not face discrimination as required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The lawsuit was filed by Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in the U.S District Court for the Central District of California. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of 15 individuals detained at eight different facilities in six states, representing a class of approximately 55,000 immigrants imprisoned by ICE on any given day, and two nonprofit organizations, Al Otro Lado and the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ). The lawsuit challenges ICE’s systemic failures to enforce constitutional and statutory requirements at the approximately 158  facilities across the country where people in immigrant detention are held, resulting in the delay and outright denial of medical care, the punitive use...

Fighting for the Rights of Deaf Immigrants in Detention

“I was so sad. So afraid I’d never see my son again. I had no idea that they [US Customs and Border Patrol] would separate us, especially in the case of my son who is deaf and who can’t communicate easily,” says an asylum-seeking mom from Guatemala who prefers to remain anonymous for safety reasons. She goes on to say that CREEC’s Liz Jordan “helped me communicate with my son, and closely followed what was happening to me. Without CREEC’s help I would not have been able to figure out what was happening with my son and I would not have been able to fight my case.” Separated from his mother soon after crossing the border in April 2018, a 17-yr old deaf asylum seeker was transported alone hundreds of miles away to an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in Arizona – without interpretation services or accommodations of any kind. His only means of communication? Drawing pictures. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother was sent to the ICE detention center in Aurora, Colorado where she asked for a video call with her son. Her requests were ignored. She says, “I felt so alone when I first got to Aurora. I didn’t know what I had to do. I met with a pro bono attorney and explained everything that had happened with me and my son and that he was deaf. They referred my case to CREEC. I remember my first visit from CREEC. I felt so much more supported. I felt myself come back to life a bit.” “It was a long fight involving multiple requests for a video call, consistent...

Accessibility Project Update: Rights of Disabled Inmates

CREEC is pleased to announce a new resource called Inmates with Disabilities: Know Your Rights.  This resource provides an overview of the rights of disabled inmates and gives examples of potential violations. Please share it with anyone who may benefit from it. We greatly appreciate the work of our summer intern, Jordan Staley, on this project and wish him all the best as he begins his third year at Denver Law. A more detailed discussion of the rights of disabled inmates follows below. Applicable Laws Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)[1] and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504)[2] protect people, including inmates of jails and prisons, from disability discrimination. This means jails and prisons[3] must not discriminate against inmates because of their disability and must give disabled inmates equal access to the programs, services, and benefits of the facility. So, for example, a jail cannot provide classes only in a building that is physically inaccessible to wheelchair users. Similarly, prisons cannot segregate blind inmates by automatically housing all of them in the medical unit.  Individuals with a relationship or association with a disabled person are also protected by these federal laws. So, jails and prisons also cannot discriminate against family members and friends of disabled inmates or disabled family members and friends of nondisabled inmates. Changes Needed Due to Disability Sometimes disabled inmates need the facility to make a change to allow them to fully participate in its programs, services, or benefits. The ADA and Section 504 require prisons and jails to make such changes (referred to as accommodations or modifications) as long as...

How Can I Help?

Helping has been a central them in Alan Chen’s life and career. From precedent setting First Amendment work that helped expose misconduct on factory farms to teaching the next generation of civil rights lawyers at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Alan’s work has helped right wrongs and has inspired others to follow suit for decades. And, from the beginning, Alan has been here to help CREEC, too. Alan says, “I’d known and respected Tim and Amy for years when they did their civil rights work through their law firm, Fox & Robertson. I was impressed with their lawyering and their strategic thinking. When Amy & Tim decided to form CREEC as a 501(c)(3) in order to deepen and broaden their impact, I was immediately interested.” From day one, Alan volunteered as a member of CREEC’s legal panel, a role he has also played for the ACLU of Colorado. “Volunteering on the panel gave me an opportunity to really see the detail of CREEC’s legal work in action. I was especially struck by CREEC’s probing and thorough pre-case research. CREEC’s lawyers are truly masterful when it comes to legal research, engendering a high level of trust in their work from the very beginning. Tim, Amy, Bill, Liz, and Martie are all such committed, high-level lawyers.” A few years later when he was asked to join CREEC’s Board of Directors, Alan says that he didn’t hesitate. “I fully resonate with CREEC’s mission and am proud to play even a small role in the organization’s success.” When asked what he thinks the future holds for CREEC, Alan remarked on...