Disability rights advocates sue Trump Administration for “Migrant Protection Protocols”

Class action lawsuit seeks relief for asylum seekers with disabilities living in Mexico. SAN DIEGO, Cal. – Today, asylum seekers with disabilities who are forced to wait for immigration proceedings in Mexico filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for its “Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy. It is the first class-action suit challenging MPP’s discriminatory practices on the grounds that they discriminate on the basis of disability. If it succeeds, not only would it hold the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accountable, hundreds of class members with disabilities would likely be allowed to wait in safer conditions stateside with their sponsors. Under the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) own stated procedures at the time of filing, asylum seekers with “known physical or mental health issues” cannot be sent to Mexico. (This policy has since been updated.) The lawsuit argues that the Trump administration’s practices infringe on federal disability protections, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  They may also violate the Administrative Procedures Act, trapping hundreds of asylum seekers with disabilities and their families in Mexico at enormous risk to their health and safety. “The ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is inherently unfit and violent for any asylum seeker, but it is particularly dangerous, and unlawful, for those living with disabilities,” said Erin Thorn Vela, senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Our lawsuit is demanding that the Trump administration comply with its own stated policy. But let’s be clear, this policy has created a humanitarian catastrophe for tens of thousands of people who have the legal right to seek asylum but have been effectively barred...

Announcing CREEC’s First Director of Operations

We are excited to announce the appointment of Ana Diaz as CREEC’s first ever Director of Operations! In this new role, Ana will oversee and coordinate the administrative, financial, and human resources aspects of CREEC. We see the addition of this essential role as a natural progression for CREEC as our organization continues to grow and evolve and, based on her experience, Ana is the ideal person to initiate and craft this position. Ana has been with CREEC since 2018, starting as Paralegal and then moving to Office Manager/Lead Paralegal in early 2020. During that time she has handled a number of administrative tasks including: playing a key role in the financial well-being of CREEC; managing personnel issues and drafting HR tools; wrangling various day-to-day administrative tasks; attending to state and federal compliance and tax issues, and more.  In her new role, Ana will also have full responsibility for firm-wide Zoom lunches, happy hours, and the annual Weird Shirt (summer) and Ugly Holiday Sweater (winter) competitions. Prior to joining CREEC, Ana’s background included experience in management, administrative support, teaching, and consulting. Her experiences working and volunteering in nonprofit settings have given her a love for their mission-driven, collaborative environments along with an appreciation of the unique challenges facing nonprofits. Ana graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University, a field of study that expanded her skills of systems-level analysis, strategic thinking, and designing environments for collaboration and community. Outside of work, Ana enjoys hiking, getting involved in her community, and lovingly curating a growing home library. Ana states about her...

Court Holds Case Challenging TDOC’S Failure to Accommodate Deaf Prisoners Can Proceed

  In an important decision for the enforcement of disability rights in Tennessee, the Middle District of Tennessee held that Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT), the state’s Protection & Advocacy (P&A) organization, has standing to file a lawsuit to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. On November 12, 2020, Federal District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger issued an opinion in the case of Trivette & Disability Rights Tennessee v. TDOC, recognizing DRT’s plaintiff status and affirming DRT’s ability to bring claims on behalf of its constituents in order to vindicate their rights. DRT, as Tennessee’s P&A, has been mandated by Congress to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. DRT and Ernest Kevin Trivette filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Tennessee on March 30, 2020 based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The suit alleges that the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) is failing to provide D/deaf inmates with effective communication, including sign language interpreters and videophones, so that they can have equal access to TDOC’s programs and services. For example, Mr. Trivette was unable to get his GED because TDOC did not provide him with a sign language interpreter who would interpret the course, which was taught in English, into his primary language of American Sign Language (ASL). TDOC filed a Motion to Dismiss, claiming, in part, that DRT lacked standing to bring suit on behalf of D/deaf inmates in TDOC custody. DRT has long advocated for TDOC to provide effective communication to D/deaf and hard of hearing inmates as required by law. In...

Martie Lafferty Writes for the Civil Rights Insider

Martie Lafferty, Director of CREEC’s Accessibility Project, was invited by the “Civil Rights Insider” to write an article about CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication (FAC) program. The “Civil Rights Insider” is a publication of the Federal Bar Association’s civil rights law section. You can read Martie’s full article below or on page 8 of this PDF of the Fall 2020 edition of the Civil Rights Insider. CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication Program By Martie Lafferty Director, Accessibility Project, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) The Fast Advocacy for Communication (FAC) program addresses communication barriers impacting people with disabilities.  The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) https://creeclaw.org/ provides FAC at no cost to clients. CREEC is a nonprofit membership organization whose goal is to ensure that everyone can fully and independently participate in our nation’s civic life without discrimination based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. CREEC’s Accessibility Project fights with urgency to make real the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar disability rights laws. Our FAC program is a crucial part of our strategy to address disability discrimination and ensure equal access. The ADA requires businesses and government entities to provide effective communication to people with disabilities.[1] This means that businesses and government offices are required to ensure that their communications with people with disabilities are “as effective as communications with others.”[2] In order to ensure effective communication, it is often necessary to provide sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services.[3] Interpreters and other aid/services must be provided free of charge to people with...

Lawsuit: Law enforcement fails to provide Oregonians with disabilities equal access to Portland demonstrations

Dispersal tactics violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, chill plaintiffs’ right to free speech Portland, Oregon—A lawsuit filed last night on behalf of people with disabilities in federal district court in Portland argues that law enforcement tactics fail to provide equal access to public demonstrations calling for racial justice, robbing them of their constitutional right to assemble and protest. People with disabilities who participate in public demonstrations are subjected to force and crowd control policies that fail to accommodate or consider their disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Law enforcement gives little or no notice or opportunity to comply before law enforcements’ use of overwhelming force. This failure to provide reasonable accommodations or effective communication denies people with disabilities their freedom of speech under the First Amendment. “As a person with a disability, I rely on my service animal to navigate the world, including participating in protests, and I have a right to that accommodation. When law enforcement denies my right to protest, they silence my voice. No one should be silenced because they have a disability,” said Juniper Simonis, a plaintiff in the case. “It’s important to me to stand shoulder to shoulder with my community in public demonstrations for Black lives and against police violence. Mass movements for social justice are indispensable in the fight for equality.” “Taking part in public demonstrations reflects a cherished American value. No one should be prevented from participating just because they have a disability,” said Brendan Hamme, senior staff attorney with Disability Rights Legal Center. “People with disabilities should...