Announcing CREEC’s 2020 Award Winner – Elisabeth Epps

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center is honored to announce Elisabeth Epps as the winner of this year’s Challenging Discrimination Award for her longtime commitment to racial justice, ending mass incarceration, and addressing racism in the criminal legal system. As a leader in the prison abolitionist movement, a bail activist, organizer, and former public defender, Elisabeth uses her skills and voice to effect change for individuals and across systems and communities. Elisabeth is committed to working with and for vulnerable people, particularly those with justice-involved backgrounds. In 2015, Elisabeth became a Co-Director of the Denver Justice Project which seeks to address systemic racism by transforming law enforcement and the structure of the criminal justice system through intersectional movement building, direct action, advocacy, and collaborative education. Elisabeth founded the Colorado Freedom Fund (CFF) in 2018–a revolving community bond fund that buys freedom for people who are caged only because they cannot afford to pay their bail. CFF works to end wealth-based detention through legislation, litigation, and direct action organizing. Through CFF, Elisabeth partnered with community organizations and legal activists in 2019 to pass into law a bill that prohibits cash bail in Colorado for many low-level offenses, and another bill to increase prompt pretrial liberty and fairness across the state; both laws are already having an impact in decarcerating Colorado cages. In 2018, Elisabeth joined the ACLU of Colorado as its Smart Justice Organizer and in 2019, Colorado Freedom Fund and ACLU in conjunction with community partners launched Bring our Neighbors Home. Early in this summer’s protests in support of the Movement for Black Lives, Elisabeth was part of the team that crafted Colorado’s SB20-217 bill, passed it through the legislature, and saw it signed...

On the Road

CREEC attorney and Director of the Immigration Detention Accountability Project, Liz Jordan,  participated in the Chicagoland Immigration and Disability Summit 2019 this fall. At CREEC, we take seriously the education part of our name. Participation in conferences, trainings, and meetings to share and learn is crucial to our work and central to our organizational values. I was so excited to accept the invitation to participate in the Chicagoland Immigration and Disability Summit 2019, hosted by two long-standing partners, Access Living and the National Immigrant Justice Center. The goal of the summit was to explore the intersection of disability and immigration rights with advocates and directly impacted people, forge relationships, and develop concrete tools for advancing the rights of immigrants with disabilities. Plus, I was excited to finally meet in person many people in the Chicago area who I had previously only emailed with! On the first day, I presented on a panel titled, “Current Disability Rights for Immigrants: Legislative and Regulatory Landscape.” We discussed the applicable disability laws and constitutional protections for immigrants with disabilities. I focused my remarks on the rights of people in ICE custody. Later that day, I was honored to moderate a panel of fearless advocates who discussed the tools they use to support immigrants with disabilities. I was also very moved to listen to a panel of immigrants with disabilities sharing their stories of coming to the U.S. and navigating the immigration and other systems here. On the second day of the summit, I presented on a panel titled, “Spotlight: Mental Health and Immigration”. Here, I focused my presentation on our recently-filed Fraihat v...

CREEC Receives Grant from Borealis Philanthropy

Grant Will Support Work of CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) Borealis Philanthropy’s Immigration Litigation Fund has awarded CREEC a $75,000 grant to support IDAP’s work to advance systemic change litigation on behalf of immigrants in detention. In August, 2019, CREEC and others filed a nationwide class action against ICE for failure to monitor detention centers, resulting in unlawful conditions of confinement – inadequate medical/mental health care, improper use of segregation and disability discrimination. Our clients have experienced horrific conditions of confinement resulting in disastrous medical consequences for them, risk of harm, and discrimination on the basis of their disability. Elizabeth Jordan, Director of the Immigration Detention Accountability Project, states, “The Fraihat v ICE case is going to take a lot of time and resources to bring to a just and humane conclusion. The Borealis grant will help us ensure that our brave clients have their day in court in a way that advances their rights and ensures systemic change to help incarcerated immigrants. We are grateful to Borealis for their support of CREEC and others who are working to make sure that the civil and human rights of all people are met.” Borealis Philanthropy works with funders to direct resources to people building powerful and thriving communities. Borealis’ Immigration Litigation Fund is a national funder collaborative whose goal is to ensure that the nation’s immigration enforcement system is fair, humane, and prioritizes the civil and human rights of those vulnerable to deportation. This is the second year that IDAP has applied for and received grant funding through the Immigration Litigation...

Making Dreams Reality

Remarks delivered at CREEC’s 2019 Annual Event by Challenging Discrimination award recipient, César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Written by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández What an immense honor it is to be recognized in this way. I am humbled to celebrate the work that CREEC does and to remember the people who they advocate alongside. Among CREEC’s clients are people like Edelberto García Guerrero, who lives at the Aurora immigration prison, while his wife and children remain in Utah, and Stephenson Teneng, an asylum seeker who was surrounded by barbed wire in the California desert while ICE claimed he was not being punished. To CREEC, their stories are worth telling because they should not be happening. We live in a moment in which the law is being subverted and traditions shoved aside in the service of suffering. In various parts of the world, including the United States, the lived reality of migration has been turned upside down by the cruelty of the power of policing pressed on law. In the United States, we see the inhumanity of the prison’s steel doors and around-the-clock surveillance rip through conversations about immigration law and policy. Despite the intensity of migration policing, advocates like CREEC are finding inspiration in numbers and strength in the creative potential of imagination. As a teacher, a lawyer, and a writer, to be in their company is to be reminded that words can wound or words can salve, but whatever effect they have, words always matter. The freedom-dreaming intellectual bell hooks reminds us that “intellectual work is a necessary part of liberation struggle.” Indeed, it must be because in dreams...

Who is impacted by ICE’s disregard of medical, mental health, and disability needs of detained immigrants? Too many people. CREEC and others are working to put an end to it.

A refugee from Sudan, Hamida Ali has a mental disability and a history of suicide attempts. Despite this, Ms. Ali was left in a dorm by herself with no other detained individuals or guards for nine months, exacerbating her symptoms.   Edilberto Garcia Guerrero experiences chronic headaches and pain in his neck, shoulder, ear, and eye. He also has diminished vision and hearing. These all stem from an assault he suffered in ICE custody and have not been addressed by medical staff. Mr. Guerrero previously had reconstructive ankle surgery after falling off a roof. He fell in ICE custody while in ankle cuffs, causing the breakage or dislocation of screws from his previous surgery. Mr. Guerrero is still waiting for surgery. These are just two people among the 15 individual plaintiffs and two organizational plaintiffs, Al Otro Lado and Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, named in a nationwide federal class action lawsuit filed on August 19, 2019 by  CREEC, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, LLP. And our plaintiffs are not alone in suffering at the hands of ICE and their contractors. On any given day, about 55,000 people are being held in ICE custody.  Last year, ICE detained a total of almost 400,000 immigrants. The Trump administration has funneled record numbers of immigrants into ICE prisons across America, subjecting thousands of men and women to in horrific, inhumane conditions in repurposed prisons and jails. These men and women are asylum seekers, longtime American residents, military veterans, teenagers, and refugees, among others. “In two years of investigating conditions for people...

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...