New Initiative – IDAP Help Desk

Recently CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) expanded its services to include a robust Help Desk component. The number of migrants and asylum seekers who are being detained in immigration prisons or denied entry at the U.S. border has increased dramatically; so, too, has the number of medically vulnerable and people with disabilities in that population.

The conditions for people with disabilities and the medically vulnerable who are detained in immigration jails are stark and their rights are routinely infringed or completely ignored. Many immigration attorneys, advocates, and directly impacted people on the frontlines of this crisis need additional support as they work at the intersection of disability and immigration law. CREEC can help.

CREEC’s Help Desk was established to provide quick, effective technical assistance in our areas of expertise to those who will benefit the most. Given the ever-growing human and civil rights violations at our borders and in immigration prisons, and further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we anticipate significant growth in the need for the kind of technical assistance CREEC can provide.

Overall, the Help Desk has given assistance to more than 50 people since its inception. Below are just a few recent examples of people who have received assistance through CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project Help Desk.

Anderson Avisai Gutierrez

Mr. Anderson Avisai Gutierrez is a 27-year-old Guatemalan asylum seeker detained at the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. Despite an attempt to die by suicide and severe mental health disabilities, Mr. Gutierrez has been placed in solitary confinement for over eight months, where his mental health has further deteriorated.

Jennifer Savage, a volunteer with Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, said this about Mr. Gutierrez’s situation, “Throughout our weeks of visitation, Mr. Gutierrez has always been courteous and easily engaged. However, he also has appeared to me to be extremely distressed with his prolonged detention and filled with such despair. He has been in detention now for 13 months, eight of them in solitary confinement. He has not received the mental health follow-up he has required.”

CREEC learned of Mr. Gutierrez’s case through the Help Desk and took swift action.

“Prolonged solitary confinement amounts to inhuman treatment and it’s a serious violation of Mr. Gutierrez’s rights under federal disability laws,” said Pilar Gonzalez Morales, senior staff attorney at CREEC. “Mr. Gutierrez has the right to receive accommodations for his multiple disabilities, but instead ICE and its subcontractors have chosen to place him in solitary confinement because of those disabilities. ICE’s failure to provide accommodations and to place him in a less restrictive environment are reasons enough to grant humanitarian parole so that he can receive appropriate, community-based care that he desperately needs.”

Working with several other advocacy organizations, CREEC filed a complaint on March 13, 2020 against the U.S. Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the LaSalle ICE Processing Center on behalf of Mr. Gutierrez for violation of his civil, constitutional, and disability rights with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. As a result, a full and active investigation is underway.

The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP)

Recently, CREEC collaborated with The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP) on two recent cases, both of which resulted in the individual’s ability to pursue their asylum claims outside of detention.

In one case, CREEC advocated for the release from detention of an asylum seeker with mental health disabilities and autism. In another, CREEC requested the non-detention of an asylum seeker at the border who has intellectual disabilities. Both individuals were granted humanitarian release and will be able to pursue their asylum claims outside of detention.

The anguish experienced by many people at our U.S. border and in our immigration prisons is real and only getting worse. Recognizing the need for an individualized and comprehensive approach that draws on multiple areas of legal, medical, and humanitarian aid expertise, CREEC began the Help Desk initiative.

Elizabeth Jordan, Director of IDAP states, “Together we can make a difference in the lives of our migrant and asylum-seeking friends, family, and neighbors. CREEC has the litigation, civil rights, and disability rights expertise to help immigration attorneys, advocates, and directly impacted people on the front lines.”

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