Complaint Successfully Nudges Tennessee Forward

Complaint Successfully Nudges Tennessee Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tenneseans with Disabilities Welcome State’s Improved Guidelines: Revisions Prohibit Discrimination in Healthcare Rationing June 26, 2020 NASHVILLE, TN  – Tennessee has issued revised guidance prohibiting healthcare providers from discriminating against people with disabilities even when public health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitate rationing of scarce resources. In response to a complaint filed by disability rights advocates (View complaint), the Tennessee Department of Health and COVID-19 Unified Command have revised the “Guidance for the Ethical Allocation of Scarce Resources During a Community-Wide Public Health Emergency as Declared by the Governor of Tennessee.” The revised document replaces the prior version released in July 2016 (View revised document). The revised guidance has effectively put Tennessee health providers on notice: Tennesseans with disabilities must be treated equally in healthcare decisions including those made during the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health emergencies. The protections of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and similar laws are not curtailed during emergencies. “We appreciate Tennessee’s prompt response to our complaint and willingness to meet the needs of people with disabilities by addressing issues beyond those we initially raised,” said Brian Keller, Public Policy Attorney at Disability Rights Tennessee. Key revisions to the guidelines include: Removal of categorical exclusions based on disability in favor of individual assessments. An individual can no longer be excluded from treatment based solely on a diagnosed disability. Narrowing the scope of survivability assessments from one year to imminent survival. Requiring reasonable modifications when necessary due to disability. This includes modifications to survivability assessment tools. For example, a person’s speech disability may negatively impact these assessments even though she...

Advocates Take ICE Back to Court Requesting Enforcement of Previous Ruling to Protect People in Custody from COVID-19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 25, 2020 Attorneys from national civil rights organizations seek to enforce earlier order to ensure the safety of thousands of people in detention RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Last night civil rights advocates filed a motion to enforce a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Central Division of California, seeking to enforce U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal’s recent order imposed on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Attorneys in the ongoing system-wide class action lawsuit Fraihat v ICE argue that ICE has flouted Judge Bernal’s order in three critical areas: failure to implement meaningful oversight measures; failure to review for release all people with COVID-19 risk factors; and failure to quickly and adequately update their detention standards to ensure the safety of medically vulnerable people in detention. In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases have continued to skyrocket in ICE detention centers across the country – a grim reality proving that the agency is knowingly putting people at risk in defiance of the Court’s order. By ICE’s own count, there were 124 people in their custody who tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of the April 20 order. Today, that number is close to 2,500. ICE continues to detain the majority of medically vulnerable people in their custody in unsafe conditions. Two individuals, Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia and Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, recently died of COVID-19 while in ICE custody – a tragic and senseless loss of life resulting from the agency’s decision to continue to detain them in dangerous conditions despite having broad discretion to release people. “Six weeks ago,...

Welcome Sanho!

CREEC is honored to welcome Sanho Steele-Louchart as an intern this summer! An experienced disability rights advocate and former special education teacher, Sanho is currently a second-year student at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and will be working with CREEC’s Accessibility Project through August. Sanho’s interest in disability rights began when he experienced the negative impact of ableism first-hand after becoming blind at age 12. Early on, Sanho joined the nonprofit, World Access for the Blind, where he traveled throughout North America and Europe, advocating alongside disabled people and their families. Sanho eventually deepened his role, becoming a World Access for the Blind instructor, author, and presenter. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Western Michigan University, Sanho went on to earn his master’s degree in Orientation and Mobility/Special Education also from Western Michigan University. Following several years as a highly successful program coordinator and special education teacher, it became clear to Sanho that if he wanted to make an even greater difference in the lives of disabled students and their families, he would need to become an attorney. Sanho states, “It became clear to me that civil rights laws are only as good as their enforcement. If I wanted to effectively fight for the rights of my students and their families, I needed to go to law school. I believe that it is both my honor and my responsibility as a disability rights advocate to remind the world that disabled people matter.” During his internship with CREEC’s Accessibility Project, Sanho hopes to increase his knowledge of intersectionality among disabled people and to work with populations...

Update: CREEC’s 2020 Annual Event

On June 9, 2020, Amy and Tim emailed the following letter to the CREEC community: Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Supporters, We have made the difficult decision to cancel CREEC’s 2020 in-person event. We’re hopeful that Colorado’s phased-in opening process will proceed smoothly, but are not confident that the Covid-19 virus will be contained enough for us to comfortably hold a large, indoor event by mid-September. Because risk of complications from infection remain high for  medically vulnerable populations, holding an in-person event would exclude members of our community. And that is the opposite of all that we believe in and fight for. Recognizing the importance of coming together and celebrating the critical work of the civil rights community now perhaps more than ever, we at CREEC are determined to find a safe alternative to our annual in-person event. Stay tuned and please continue to reserve some time for CREEC and our community on the evening of September 17, 2020, but know that whatever we have in store for you this year can be done with your slippers on! In community, Amy and...

New Partnership – We the Action

As the need became more dire, CREEC knew who to call on.  We the Action. The successful request for emergency preliminary injunction in the Fraihat v. ICE case filed by CREEC and co-counsel at the start of the pandemic opened the legal door for thousands of immigrants in detention who are medically vulnerable to be potentially released. Except that ICE detains thousands of people who have no legal representation, and we could not be sure ICE was appropriately considering those people. When the need for short-term legal help for people covered under the court’s order increased, CREEC reached out to We the Action – a nonprofit that pairs volunteer lawyers with mission compatible projects. Director of CREEC’s Immigration Accountability Project (IDAP), Elizabeth Jordan explains, “We frankly don’t trust ICE to get this process right, and we know that data has proven time and again that immigrants who have lawyers have better odds for better outcomes on all sorts of issues. We felt that we had a duty to Fraihat class members to match as many of them as possible with lawyers to help them seek release and stay safe from the pandemic.” CREEC applied to be a We the Action partner, proposing a project in which volunteer lawyers could provide limited representation for detained people seeking custody review pursuant to the Fraihat order. Just six days after posting the project on We the Action’s website, we heard from six interested attorneys. In five short weeks, the number of volunteers grew to 38. To date, volunteer attorneys have helped at least 16 detained people request release and many more are...