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,...

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...

CREEC Supports Those Protesting Racist Violence. Black Lives Matter.

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) condemns racialized police brutality, racist vigilantism, and white weaponization of law enforcement. So much to condemn; so much work to do. Building on 400 years of racism and white supremacy in this country, this year has brought more shameful examples of racialized police brutality, including the recent murders at the hands of police officers of George Floyd (Black man), Breonna Taylor (Black woman), Tony McDade (Black trans man), Malik Williams (Black disabled man), and so many others on and off camera. This scourge plagues the entire nation, including CREEC’s home state of Colorado, where law enforcement murders of black men like Elijah McClain, Marvin Booker, Michael Marshall, and De’Von Bailey have not gained the national attention they deserve. We have also seen the vastly different law enforcement response to people protesting these murders – in Minneapolis, Denver, and elsewhere – in contrast to the response to white people – often armed – protesting measures instituted to protect us from the pandemic. We condemn these actions and the racist and white supremacist system of which they are a part. We call on cities to hold their police departments accountable. We call on society to recognize and work to eradicate the white supremacy that underpins so many of our institutions and replace those institutions with processes not hardwired to overpolice and cage Black and Brown people. CREEC also condemns the racist vigilantism exemplified by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and white weaponization of law enforcement such as Amy Cooper’s attempted murder-by-cop of Christian Cooper, a Black birder in Central Park. These, too, are...