History shows that rights are even more likely to be threatened during – or shortly after – a crisis, during times of scarcity, and when fear predominates. Recognizing this, CREEC set in motion a three-pronged response at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our response employs strong collaboration and education, swift action for individuals in need, and broad impact litigation. In the last month CREEC has focused our resources on the following:
We believe that we’re stronger together.
Collaboration with sister organizations
CREEC joined dozens of organizations to write emergency letters and complaints in California, Colorado, Montana and Tennessee advocating for fair and legal treatment of the most vulnerable groups during this crisis, including:
- letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis seeking policies and procedures to protect the rights of people with disabilities, with an emphasis on access to health care;
- letter to DHS, ICE and GEO Group officials at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California requesting parole for medically vulnerable detained immigrants;
- complaint filed with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights about COVID-19 treatment rationing plan in Tennessee and;
- work with the ACLU of Montana requesting reduction of population of incarcerated persons and appointment of a special master (in progress).
Educating others to help
CREEC’s expertise in civil rights for people with disabilities, immigrants in detention, and at the intersection of immigration and disability rights is being put to good use preparing others to help some of the most vulnerable groups during this pandemic, including:
- participating in a Denver Tele-Town Hall Meeting panel to discuss health care at the Aurora ICE Processing Center.
- virtually presenting to law students at Temple University on the intersection of disability and immigration law during a time of COVID-19 emergency work.
- collaborating with sister organizations to collect, organize, and share data to better inform COVID-19 legal responses (in progress).
We’ve mobilized additional resources for individuals in crisis.
Action on behalf of individuals
CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) Help Desk has been busy since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. IDAP’s Help Desk was established to provide quick, effective technical assistance in our areas of expertise to immigration attorneys, advocates and directly impacted people. Since late February, the Help Desk has:
- advised three habeas petitions for detained immigrants at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center which resulted in release.
- filed two humanitarian parole requests related to COVID-19 complications.
- referred five inquiries to immigration law providers for emergency representation.
- collaborated with more than 50 medical professionals to increase advocacy for detained immigrants at risk of COVID-19 complications at the Aurora ICE Processing Center.
- advised dozens of immigration attorneys and advocates on effective action for clients at risk of COVID-19 complications in ICE detention.
We continue to seek systemic change through class action litigation during the pandemic.
Broad impact work- more important than ever
Our plaintiffs in Fraihat v. ICE and all immigrants in detention, especially those who are medically vulnerable, are at dramatically increased risk for infection, serious long-term injury, and death from COVID-19. Soon after the pandemic was announced, CREEC and co-counsel filed an emergency application for a preliminary injunction seeking immediate steps to protect people in immigration prisons, and if that proves impossible, seeking their immediate release. Hearings on this request are scheduled for mid-April. Nearly 40,000 people are currently detained by ICE. Success in the courts with this preliminary injunction could result in thousands of saved lives.
Civil rights legal work is critical during the COVID-19 crisis and CREEC is in a unique position to help. As a small organization with the necessary expertise and broad, deep connections within the disability rights and immigration rights communities, CREEC can pivot and respond quickly. “COVID-19 poses a dire threat to people in prisons, detention centers, and other congregate settings. CREEC is proud to play a role in trying to protect these people,” says Tim Fox, Co-Executive Director.
CREEC is committed to continued response to new and shifting needs as this pandemic and resulting economic crisis unfold while also maintaining work on existing, high priority cases and advocacy unrelated to COVID-19.