Immigrant Advocacy Groups File Civil Rights Complaint Against Constitutional & Disability Rights Violations

Freedom for Immigrants (FFI), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention, and Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) have filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) on behalf of Mr. Anderson Avisai Gutierrez, a 27-year-old Guatemalan asylum seeker detained at the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana. Despite an attempt to end his own life and severe mental health disabilities, Mr. Gutierrez has been placed in solitary confinement for over eight months, where his mental health has further deteriorated. His continued confinement is in violation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own standards, his constitutional rights, and disability law. “Sometimes you miss taking a shower. You don’t eat, because suddenly they forget about you. They forget to wash your clothes. The light is on day and night. 24 hours a day, every day. You are locked up like an animal on exhibition, since everyone that passes can see you,” wrote Gutierrez, in a letter about his time in solitary confinement. “[The prison] is missing a lot of things for the wellness of human beings.”   “Throughout our weeks of visitation, Mr. Gutierrez has always been courteous and easily engaged. However, he also has appeared to me to be extremely distressed with his prolonged detention and filled with such despair. He has been in detention now for 13 months, eight of them in solitary confinement,” said Jennifer Savage, a volunteer with Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention. “He has not received the mental health follow-up he has required.”   “Prolonged solitary confinement is tantamount...

Immigration: Updates and Ongoing Battles

All too frequently we hear news of abhorrent actions taken against immigrants seeking refuge in our country: Bans on people because of their religion or country of origin. Unnecessary obstacles in asylum cases. Inhumane treatment of immigrants at our borders. Brutal treatment and neglect of immigrants who are imprisoned in ICE’s jails. Expansion of private prisons to detain immigrants despite the companies’ abysmal records of human rights violations. The barrage is constant and the conditions our fellow human beings are living in are dire. This is why CREEC and others are determined to fight – and win – this battle. While we can’t possibly name all the work being done, here you will find an update on some recent efforts being made, some battles being won, and steps being taken toward future wins. In November, ICE filed a motion to dismiss the Fraihat case brought by CREEC and co-counsel. On February 24, CREEC and co-counsel will argue in court that our case should continue. This nationwide class action 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 U.S. Constitution, and its failure to ensure that detained immigrants with disabilities are provided accommodations and do not face discrimination. Our clients have experienced undeniable neglect and discrimination and the progress being made should result in much needed systemic change of a broken and unlawful system. On January 15, 2020, NPR investigative reporter, Tom Dreisbach, published a piece (“Despite Findings of ‘Negligent’ Care, ICE to Expand Troubled Calif. Detention Center”) summarizing recent events and their...

CREEC Receives Two-Year Grant from the Ford Foundation

Grant Will Support Work of CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) The Ford Foundation has awarded CREEC a $150,000 grant, distributed over a two-year time period to support IDAP’s work. Established in 2018 CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) believes that current immigration detention practices are inherently constitutionally suspect and inappropriate for the vast majority of non-citizens awaiting resolution of their immigration status. As long as detention continues to be sanctioned by the courts and Congress, IDAP will fight to ensure that people in ICE custody are held in constitutionally adequate conditions, receive constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care, and are not discriminated against on the basis of disability. Recent IDAP work toward this end includes filing a systemic class action lawsuit, Fraihat v. ICE – challenging ICE’s failure to ensure adequate conditions related to medical, mental health, and disability; successfully challenging conditions at a federal prison in Victorville, CA; representation of individual detained immigrants; providing assistance to other immigration advocates through presentations, workshops, and educational materials on the rights of detained immigrants with disabilities. Elizabeth Jordan, Director of the Immigration Detention Accountability Project, states, “The generous grant we received from the Ford Foundation will help IDAP maximize our impact by reaching as many people in ICE’s jails and prisons with medical, mental health, and disability needs as possible. We are grateful to the Ford Foundation for their support of CREEC while we fight to ensure that the civil and human rights of all people are met.” The Ford Foundation invests in institutions, ideas, and individuals to fight the drivers of inequality in our society. Identifying seven interconnected...

Tim Fox Writes for the Civil Rights Insider

Co-Executive Director, Tim Fox, was invited by the Federal Bar Association’s Civil Rights Law Section to write an article for their newsletter, the Civil Rights Insider regarding the Fraihat v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Case No. 5:19-cv-01546 (C.D. Cal). On August 19, CREEC and others filed this nationwide class-action lawsuit challenging abusive and horrific conditions of confinement at approximately 158 immigration detention centers across the country. Fraihat alleges violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and also alleges that the Department of Homeland Security and ICE have a long-standing pattern and practice of failing to adequately monitor and oversee immigration detention centers. The Federal Bar Association is dedicated to keeping its members informed about current federal issues. One avenue for this is through their quarterly newsletter, the Civil Rights Insider. You can read Tim’s article, “Civil Rights Groups Charge that ICE Disregards Immigrants’ Medical, Mental Health Needs and Ignores Discrimination Against Immigrants with Disabilities” in-full on page four of the Fall 2019 issue of the Civil Rights Insider. To read more about Fraihat v ICE, visit our case...

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...