Fighting for the Rights of Deaf Immigrants in Detention

“I was so sad. So afraid I’d never see my son again. I had no idea that they [US Customs and Border Patrol] would separate us, especially in the case of my son who is deaf and who can’t communicate easily,” says an asylum-seeking mom from Guatemala who prefers to remain anonymous for safety reasons. She goes on to say that CREEC’s Liz Jordan “helped me communicate with my son, and closely followed what was happening to me. Without CREEC’s help I would not have been able to figure out what was happening with my son and I would not have been able to fight my case.” Separated from his mother soon after crossing the border in April 2018, a 17-yr old deaf asylum seeker was transported alone hundreds of miles away to an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in Arizona – without interpretation services or accommodations of any kind. His only means of communication? Drawing pictures. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother was sent to the ICE detention center in Aurora, Colorado where she asked for a video call with her son. Her requests were ignored. She says, “I felt so alone when I first got to Aurora. I didn’t know what I had to do. I met with a pro bono attorney and explained everything that had happened with me and my son and that he was deaf. They referred my case to CREEC. I remember my first visit from CREEC. I felt so much more supported. I felt myself come back to life a bit.” “It was a long fight involving multiple requests for a video call, consistent...

Accessibility Project Update: Rights of Disabled Inmates

CREEC is pleased to announce a new resource called Inmates with Disabilities: Know Your Rights.  This resource provides an overview of the rights of disabled inmates and gives examples of potential violations. Please share it with anyone who may benefit from it. We greatly appreciate the work of our summer intern, Jordan Staley, on this project and wish him all the best as he begins his third year at Denver Law. A more detailed discussion of the rights of disabled inmates follows below. Applicable Laws Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)[1] and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504)[2] protect people, including inmates of jails and prisons, from disability discrimination. This means jails and prisons[3] must not discriminate against inmates because of their disability and must give disabled inmates equal access to the programs, services, and benefits of the facility. So, for example, a jail cannot provide classes only in a building that is physically inaccessible to wheelchair users. Similarly, prisons cannot segregate blind inmates by automatically housing all of them in the medical unit.  Individuals with a relationship or association with a disabled person are also protected by these federal laws. So, jails and prisons also cannot discriminate against family members and friends of disabled inmates or disabled family members and friends of nondisabled inmates. Changes Needed Due to Disability Sometimes disabled inmates need the facility to make a change to allow them to fully participate in its programs, services, or benefits. The ADA and Section 504 require prisons and jails to make such changes (referred to as accommodations or modifications) as long as...

Announcing CREEC’s 2019 Challenging Discrimination Award Winner

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center is honored to announce César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández as the winner of this year’s Challenging Discrimination Award for his dedicated and distinguished service to the immigration law and policy community and to the broader civil rights community in Denver and nationally. A tenured associate professor of law at the University of Denver, César is a leading scholar in crimmigration law, defined as the intersection of criminal law and immigration law. Widely published in academic journals and popular media outlets, César’s second book, Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession With Locking Up Immigrants, will be released in December by the social justice publisher The New Press. His seminal book Crimmigration Law (American Bar Association Publishing 2015) has become required reading for anyone pursuing work in the field. In addition to providing tools for immigration and civil rights attorneys to better represent their clients in the fight for systemic change, César generously and effectively shares his expertise with the general public, thereby magnifying his opportunities to create change in our world. César is a frequent contributor to national and international media outlets such as the BBC, NPR, The New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, and La Opinión through op-eds and interviews. He also writes a popular blog and has a large Twitter following. César’s academic and professional accolades are many and include being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Slovenia, being appointed as a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley School of Law’s Henderson Center for Social Justice, and receiving the Derrick Bell Award from the American Association of Law Schools Section on Minority Groups. César is...

Deaf Inmate Access to Phone Calls

Connecting with family and friends outside prison can be difficult and expensive for all inmates.  However, once they’ve navigated the prison’s red tape and are able to make a call, hearing inmates can directly communicate with their contacts outside the prison. That is not the case for deaf inmates.  Many jails and prisons across the country offer only outdated and ineffective technology to people who are deaf.  Along with partners including the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), CREEC is working to make sure deaf inmates have effective communication in prisons across the country.  This includes access to effective phone calls, including videophones and CapTel (captioned phones). For deaf people whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL) or another sign language, videophones are necessary for effective phone communication.  Videophones (VPs) allow deaf inmates to communicate in sign language with those outside prison, including friends, family, and attorneys.  When a deaf inmate uses VP to call a deaf person outside prison, there is direct communication in sign language.  When a deaf inmate uses VP to call a hearing person outside prison, the deaf inmate can communicate in sign language through a relay operator who is a sign language interpreter. Although deaf inmates need VP for effective communication, most prisons only provide teletypewriters (TTY), an outdated technology that requires the parties to type back and forth in English (generally the second language for most deaf people). As one expert explained, “consider the prisoner outrage that would result from a . . . policy . . . require[ing] all prisoners to communicate. . . only by using fax machines.  Communication via...

Paying Forward: CREECs Extern Program

“I have a strong interest in immigration law and policy and heard about the vital work CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project is doing.  Knowing that the attorneys at CREEC have a reputation for doing smart, high-stakes work that improves people’s lives, I applied for a CREEC externship as a way to challenge myself to grow in new areas while doing work I believe in.”  – Allison Crennen-Dunlap, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2019, University of Denver – Sturm College of Law. CREEC Extern Spring 2019 Since 2015, CREEC has offered first-hand experience in civil rights litigation, research and advocacy to area law students through its extern program. Co-Executive Director, Amy Robertson says, “it is always exciting to work with the next generation of civil rights lawyers and leaders, especially in collaboration with Denver Law given its robust commitment to experiential learning.” To date, CREEC has offered experience in civil rights law to 8 externs. This summer is no different, as CREEC welcomes externs Jordan Staley and Kiley Oblisk.  Jordan is a rising third year law student, who will be working with CREEC’s Accessibility Projects including communications access for Deaf and hard of hearing prisoners and hospital patients. During his 2L year, Jordan worked in Denver Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented a federal prisoner in a religious discrimination case. He’s excited to continue working in civil rights this summer and looks forward to the opportunity to learn more about disability law.  Kiley is a rising second year law student joining CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project. Prior to law school, she worked for the Colorado Public Defender in Durango, working especially...

CREEC Moves for Sanctions Against ICE in our FOIA Lawsuit

CREEC is tired of ICE lying to us. Today, we asked a judge to make them stop. Today, because ICE has obscured documents from the public and misled us and a federal judge, CREEC asked that ICE be sanctioned. Fifteen months ago, CREEC took ICE to court for failing to respond to information requests regarding conditions at ICE’s immigration prisons – including whether there was adequate medical care, mental health care, and appropriate accommodations for people with disabilities in ICE custody. For months, CREEC has repeatedly requested that ICE hand over two Detainee Death Reviews – documentation required by law to be created whenever someone dies in ICE custody. CREEC thought the Detainee Death Reviews would shed light on what happened to Vicente Caceres Maradiaga, who died at Adelanto Detention Center in California in May 2017, and Kamyar Samimi, who died at Aurora Detention Center in Colorado in December 2017, about whose deaths little was publicly known. CREEC has also requested certain ICE policies governing health care. Until very recently, ICE pretended like these documents did not exist. This week, CREEC learned that, not only does Mr. Samimi’s death review document exist, it is damning. Mr. Samimi died after experiencing callously neglectful medical practices. We can see why ICE was attempting to hide it. We suspect ICE is doing the same thing with Mr. Caceres Maradiaga’s death review. That’s illegal. Because ICE has obscured these documents from the public and misled us and the judge hearing our case, not to mention wasted our time for months, we asked the judge today to sanction their conduct, award us fees, and order these documents be immediately produced. Click...