CREECblog

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 wImage: GEO Detention Center in Auroraould 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 here to view the full FOIA case page.

CREEC is hiring a paralegal!

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), located in Denver, Berkeley, and Nashville, is hiring a paralegal to work in our Denver office.

  • Do you want a job where you are encouraged to take ownership of projects and to find creative solutions, and where you receive frank but productive and encouraging feedback?
  • Are you the most detail-oriented person you know?
  • Can you find humor in even the busiest days and most aggravating situations?
  • Can you multitask? And by multitask, we mean Multi. Task. Do lots of different things at the same time. Juggle chainsaws. You know, the usual.
  • Do you want to learn a lot about litigation and civil rights law?

If so, you just might be the paralegal CREEC is looking for.

CREEC is a nonprofit membership organization whose goal is ensuring that everyone can fully and independently participate in our nation’s civic life without discrimination based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We are committed to this mission, and we promote it through education, outreach, and investigating and filing impact and class action lawsuits nationwide on a broad array of civil rights issues. We have three attorneys in Denver, one attorney in Berkeley, and one in Nashville. More information is available at www.creeclaw.org.

We are looking for a smart, motivated college graduate who is extremely detail oriented, and who has strong writing, communication, and organizational skills to be our paralegal. You do not need prior paralegal experience. Proficiency or fluency in a second language is a plus. We request a commitment of at least two years.

What we are looking for:

Superior organizational and writing skills. CREEC has a heavy case load of complex litigation and educational projects. We need someone who can internalize the details of these projects and help us keep track of them, calendar constantly shifting litigation deadlines, manage case documents and files, and generally run all but the purely legal aspects of each case. In addition, we ask our paralegal to draft basic pleadings and correspondence, interview potential clients and witnesses, and assist with investigations, so strong communication and writing skills are a must.

Strong computer skills. Our paralegal will do web-based research and use Microsoft programs (Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, and PowerPoint), as well as specialized litigation software. We are looking for candidates with experience using some of these programs, but will consider all otherwise qualified candidates and will provide additional training as needed on the job.

Ability to work well with other people . . . and alone. You need to be comfortable and professional interacting with potential and current clients, court personnel, cooperating and opposing counsel, and the wide variety of people who call and visit our nonprofit. Because CREEC’s attorneys travel often, you also should be comfortable and efficient working with little supervision.

Willingness to do a bit of everything. We are a small nonprofit, so you have to be comfortable doing less glamorous things, like filing, data entry, making travel arrangements, or running out to pick up lunch. You will need a driver’s license and willingness to travel.

We work very hard, but our office atmosphere is upbeat and casual. We have a well-stocked kitchen and two office dogs. If you like responsibility and handle the tasks well, you will be able to play a major role in our litigation and outreach and have a varied and interesting practice.

Salary and benefits. The salary is $40,000. We also provide health insurance, a retirement plan, free parking, three weeks of paid leave.

Application process. Email a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and college transcript to resumes@creeclaw.org. Please indicate “Paralegal (YOUR LAST NAME)” in the subject line. All materials should be sent in pdf format. If you are a person with a disability and need accommodations in the application process, please let us know in your cover letter.

CREEC is an equal opportunity employer that values a diverse workforce and promotes an inclusive culture. CREEC encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, and veteran status.

Education Report:  Sign Language Interpreters in Medical Settings

Imagine getting sick in, say, rural China. You’ve studied a bit of Chinese and decided to travel there. Then your stomach starts to hurt. A lot. No one at the hospital — from doctors to receptionists — speaks English, so when you try to communicate your symptoms in English, no one understands. They talk to you in Chinese and you understand the basics:  lie down here; where does it hurt? But you need to tell them your medical history; they need to tell you their diagnosis and proposed treatment. Now imagine you’ve come to the hospital in extreme pain, or severely injured in a car accident, or in labor.

This is the experience Deaf people encounter every day in their own country in hospitals and doctors’ offices:  they need to explain their symptoms and history and to understand their diagnosis and treatment options in their native language — American Sign Language (ASL) — while medical personnel attempt to communicate with them using written notes or lip reading.  Since ASL is a completely different language from English — and the latter generally a second language for most Deaf people — this puts the Deaf patient in the same situation as the traveler above.  And written notes? Even if you’re fluent in English, imagine conducting your next doctor’s appointment — or emergency room visit or childbirth — by writing notes back and forth with doctors, nurses, and technicians; now imagine (if you’re native English speaker) writing back and forth in French or Russian. Imagine being a doctor and trying to obtain informed consent under these circumstances. Medical personnel should be insisting on — not resisting — qualified sign language interpreters. Image: caduceus symbol, signing hands symbol, question mark symbol graphic

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires doctors and hospitals to provide Deaf people with “effective communication.” In many cases, this means a sign language interpreter. Because this need often arises urgently — when no one can wait for the results of a lawsuit — and because many doctors are unaware of their obligations, CREEC has developed a Quick Guide to Sign Language Interpreters in Medical Settings. This Quick Guide, developed in 2017 — after years of providing the same information in emails, phone calls, and presentations — provides medical personnel and Deaf patients with the essential ADA requirements as well as resources for finding interpreters both in Colorado and around the country. CREEC also works with Deaf people directly who need medical interpreters by helping them reach out to doctors and hospitals, explaining the law, and connecting them with resources. Through this project, we have assisted over 25 clients to get the communications they need without having to resort to litigation.  In addition, CREEC has represented a number of individuals in court when medical facilities have refused to provide effective communication.

CREEC will continue to educate medical personnel about their obligations under the ADA and to provide support for Deaf people seeking to communicate effectively with their doctors. If you are interested in learning more about this issue, check out the resources in the Quick Guide and feel free to send it along to friends and colleagues in the medical world. Deaf people who have questions or would like assistance working with medical or other providers to get effective communication can contact us at intakes@creeclaw.org.

What’s IDAP Been Up To Lately?

Since its formation in September 2018, CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP) has fought to assert the rights of and improve conditions for hundreds of immigrants in ICE custody in Colorado and across the nation and is laying the groundwork for future litigation efforts. Under Director Liz Jordan’s leadership, IDAP has focused on three key areas thus far: legal challenge of conditions of confinement in immigration detention centers, legal challenge of discrimination against detained immigrants with disabilities, and education and outreach on detention conditions and treatment of immigrants with disabilities.

Recent projects include procurement of previously unreleased documents relating to life-threatening treatment of detainees in Colorado and California; cessation of improper use of federal prisons for immigrant detention in California; multiple advocacy efforts; and educational initiatives to raise public awareness of the conditions facing immigrant detainees and their civil rights. In an  ongoing transparency litigation case in Colorado, IDAP procured previously unreleased ICE documents relating to deaths of immigrants in detention and treatment of people with disabilities. These documents had never before been made public and are part of a larger effort to hold ICE accountable to the public through the release of information. Last summer, IDAP also filed a federal class action lawsuit in Victorville, California on behalf of asylum seekers who were being illegally held in a federal prison despite not having criminal convictions. As a result of CREEC’s lawsuit, the U.S. government’s practice of holding detainees who have not committed a crime was discontinued at this prison. Additionally, IDAP offers civil rights consultation to lawyers for immigrants with disabilities, represents people in ICE custody, advocates for adequate care and accommodations for people in ICE custody, and investigates ongoing conditions of confinement issues.

As IDAP’s Director, Liz makes regular appearances in the press on abuses within immigration detention centers, most recently on the lack of sufficient medical care and the outbreak of mumps at the detention center in Aurora, Colorado. Liz has also presented at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, the ACLU national staff conference, and the Colorado Bar Association on the rights of people in immigration detention. CREEC is pleased to host two Denver University law student externs this semester, Ali Sheets and Allison Crennan-Dunlap, for work with the Immigration Detention Accountability Project.

What’s next for CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project? “Our country’s current immigration policies have dramatically increased immigrant detention, resulting in dangerous overcrowding, lack of sufficient resources, and violations of basic rights for detained individuals.   Through litigation and advocacy, we are committed to continue fighting for the rights of people detained in ICE custody,” notes Liz, “and Thank You to all of the CREEC supporters who help make our work possible.”

Colorado Springs Agrees to Install over 15,000 Accessible Curb Ramps in Next 14 Years.

Release Date: March 20, 2019

Colorado Springs The City of Colorado Springs has settled a class action lawsuit by committing to installing over 15,000 accessible curb ramps throughout the city in the next 14 years. Curb ramps provide people with mobility disabilities a safe way to get on and off sidewalks as they travel through the pedestrian right of way.

People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the country. Census figures estimate that 56.7 million, or 1 in 5 Americans, has a disability.  In Colorado Springs alone, there are approximately 24,000 people with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs, walkers, scooters or other mobility devices to get around. Missing, broken or poorly maintained curb ramps prevent people with mobility disabilities from safely using sidewalks, crosswalks and other walkways to participate in daily activities like getting to work or going to school.

“I appreciate not only that this agreement will allow me to get to and from work more efficiently, but also that, when I find a problem, Colorado Springs has a system set up to resolve it. I look forward to my increased independence,” said Paul Spotts, one of the plaintiffs. Sharon King, another plaintiff, explains, “It’s frustrating when I am just trying to do my errands and I cannot get across a street because there is no curb ramp. I’m so excited that we have been able to reach this agreement with Colorado Springs so that I can get where I need to go without these barriers, just like everyone else.”

“Federal and state disability access laws were enacted decades ago to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to fully participate in civic life,” said Tim Fox, plaintiffs’ counsel and co-founder of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center.  “Today, we stand together with the City of Colorado Springs to fulfill the promise of those laws by ensuring that people with disabilities can travel independently throughout their communities.” Julia Campins, plaintiff’s counsel with Campins Benham-Baker said, “The ability to move freely around town is such a fundamental part of independence. We are excited to be working with Colorado Springs so that all of its residents and visitors can enjoy such freedom.”

“We look forward to continuing the City of Colorado Springs’ existing commitment to improving access for people of all abilities across our great City, and the commitment to installing and retrofitting thousands of curb ramps only furthers this effort,” said Travis Easton, Public Works Director for the City of Colorado Springs. “Between this commitment, the updated ADA Transition Plan, and the many well-attended community conversations on accessibility, the City continues to work hard to study the opportunities and work to increase accessibility.”

“City Council approved this settlement in the best interests of our residents and to further our ongoing efforts to make our City welcoming and accessible to all people, regardless of ability,” said City Council President Richard Skorman. “I was pleased to vote in favor of this settlement in open session per the terms of the new process, along with many fellow City Councilors.”

 

Click here for the official press release.

 

Welcome Martie!

CREEC is extremely excited to announce the opening of CREEC’s Nashville office and the appointment of Martie Lafferty as CREEC’s new Director of Accessibility Projects.

Martie will be focusing on representing people with disabilities in a variety oImage: Woman with short dark hair and glasses smiling at the camera dressed in a blue suit.f access cases around the country, including access to communications and the built environment.  Martie comes to CREEC with a wealth of experience, including litigating access cases against the State of Tennessee to eliminate barriers preventing access to the state’s court program — which resulted in the landmark case of Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004) — and against a medical provider who refused to provide a diagnostic MRI to a wheelchair user. She has also represented numerous deaf and hard of hearing people who were refused effective communication in settings including housing, medical offices, hospitals, courts, jails, and legislatures.

Prior to joining CREEC, Martie was a Litigation Associate at Stein & Vargas, LLP and previously Legal Director at Disability Rights Tennessee. Her extracurricular activities include picking her banjo, playing with her dogs, and attending concerts. Martie is admitted to practice in Tennessee.

CREEC mourns the passing of pathbreaking disability rights lawyer and advocate Carrie Ann Lucas.

As we vow to do our best to kick as many asses as thoroughly as Carrie did.

Image: Carrie Ann Lucas, light skinned Latina woman of size with mid-length brown hair, wearing a beige blouse and dark skirt. She is speaking into a mic held for her by a white woman with red hair. To the left, a woman dressed entirely in black interprets into ASL. The world has lost a fierce advocate, brilliant lawyer, and talented photographer.  Carrie Ann Lucas, a disability rights attorney who pioneered representation for parents with disabilities, died from complications from septic shock.  She was 47 years old.

CREEC recognized Carrie in 2016 for her work in intersectional civil rights, celebrating her outstanding leadership in disability rights, parents’ rights, LGBTQI rights, human dignity, and faith.

CREEC’s Co-Executive Directors first worked with Carrie not long after they started their small civil rights law firm in 1996, when she asked us to challenge her graduate program at the Iliff School of Theology for their failure to provide access and effective communication. While she was working on her Masters of Divinity there, she worked with others to protest institutional racism on the faculty and in the library.  This was not her first protest:  early on, she protested her high school’s refusal to permit a disabled student to march with the band.

After getting her M. Div., she worked at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, got her law degree at the University of Denver (on the full-ride Chancellor’s Scholarship), got a prestigious Equal Justice Works fellowship, and founded Disabled Parent Rights, a non-profit devoted to ensuring that people with disabilities have equal rights in parenting.  She also became a national expert and trainer on the rights of parents with disabilities and, through her legal advocacy, secured decisions upholding and promoting those rights here in Colorado. Most recently she was recruited by the Colorado Office of Respondent Parents Counsel to help set up a program to train other lawyers around the state to replicate the sort of impact she was making.

During all of this time, she also acted as the plaintiff in a number of ground-breaking disability rights lawsuits, including one of the largest public accommodations class actions and others bringing equal access to a variety of different facilities.

Throughout her life, Carrie taught, protested, litigated, wrote, and advocated for a broad understanding of civil rights and human dignity, and consistently brought an intersectional approach to her work:  bringing the parental perspective to disability rights, and vice versa; insisting on disability rights in civil rights spaces; and the importance of voices of color and LGBTQI people in disability rights spaces. Carrie may have been the only wheelchair-using Latina with a bumper sticker reading “just another disabled lesbian for Christ,” dressed in camo, driving her trak-chair into the wilderness in search of the perfect photo.

While the immediate cause of death was septic shock, Carrie was in fact the victim of our healthcare system and the brutal cost containment procedures of her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare.  Carrie had a severe neuromuscular disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy. She relied on a power wheelchair, and had used a ventilator for years. In January of 2018, she got a cold which turned into a lung infection. UnitedHealthcare refused to pay for the specific inhaled antibiotic that she needed, instead forcing her to take a less effective drug, to which she experienced a severe reaction.  This created a cascade of problems and loss of function (including her speech). United Healthcare’s attempt to save $2,000 ultimately cost over $1 million in health care costs over the past year.

We are very grateful for all Carrie has taught us about disability rights and intersectionality, and for being a brilliant and hilarious colleague and friend.  We will miss her very much.

[CCDC has posted a more detailed obituary, from which I have plagiarized liberally.]

 

CREEC’s IDAP Director Quoted in Westword re: Aurora’s Immigration Detention Facility’s Expansion

Excellent article from Westword about Aurora’s Immigration Detention Facility’s sudden expansion.

CREEC’s own IDAP Director, Liz Jordan, weighs in:

“In June, ICE started moving hundreds of its detainees to federal prisons across the country because the government lacked enough space in its immigration detention center, according to an NPR reportIn a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Jordan’s organization in August 2018, lawyers representing plaintiffs in a prison in California argued that conditions there were deplorable.

“As a result of the unconstitutional treatment of these civil detainees, many have expressed a desire to be returned, immediately, to their countries of origin — foregoing their claims for immigration relief altogether — because they would rather face the dangers back home than be imprisoned in these abysmal conditions,” part of the complaint reads. As of October 2018, ICE had largely stopped using federal prisons to house detainees, according to NPR.

Jordan is worried that something similar could happen at the recently opened annex in Aurora. “We are concerned that the facilities are unprepared for this influx [of new detainees], which could result in really horrifying conditions for people that have to sit in these wings while they get up and running.” Jordan says it is unclear whether the facility will add staff to manage the additional detainees.”

Click here to read the whole article.

Welcome to our Spring 2019 externs!

CREEC is thrilled to be joined by three excellent externs this spring.*

Allison Crennen-Dunlap is a Chancellor Scholar and J.D. candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She has worked as a student attorney with the Sturm College of Law’s Immigration Law & Policy Clinic and completed legal internships with various organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network and the Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center. She earned her M.A. at the Pennsylvania State University, where she was a McCourtney Distinguished Graduate Fellow, and graduated with her B.A. from Georgetown University. In her free time, Allison enjoys exploring new places and strolling through Denver’s parks with her husband and four-year-old daughter.

Alison “Ali” Sheets is in her final year at Denver Law. Ali is also a Chancellor Scholar at Denver Law, which is based on both public interest work and merits. While in school, Ali has worked on a variety of issues, including immigration, asylum, crimmigration, death penalty and international law. She regularly volunteers with an immigration non-profit in El Paso, Texas. Ali is simultaneously pursuing a Masters in International Human Rights at the Korbel School of International Studies, where she focuses on human trafficking and is a Research Assistant in the Human Trafficking Clinic. In her free time, Ali enjoys hiking, trivia, and spending time with her dog.

Jean Peterson is CREEC’s paralegal-turned-extern. She is a 2L at the Denver Law. Jean graduated from the American University with a B.A. in International Studies. Following her legal interests instead of her degree, Jean worked for the U.S. Department of Justice in D.C. in their Securities and Financial Fraud Unit. She joined CREEC as a paralegal in 2016 and has been juggling her work here with her legal studies since 2017. Jean is using extern opportunity to hone her increasing legal knowledge to be a better advocate and asset to CREEC. When she can find a sliver of free time she likes to hike, ski, ride, play with her dog, and read.

 

* It’s snowing here in Denver but the semester is called “spring” so we’ll just go with it.

CREEC Announces Immigration Detention Accountability Project

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center is pleased to announce the launch of the CREEC Immigration Detention Accountability Project and the appointment of Elizabeth Jordan as Director of the Project.

The Immigration Detention Accountability Project will focus on three major areas:

  • Impact litigation challenging the conditions of confinement in immigration detention centers;
  • Impact litigation challenging discrimination against detained immigrants with disabilities; and
  • Education and outreach on detention conditions and treatment of immigrants with disabilities.
The Project will also provide pro bono direct representation of detained immigrants — in immigration and federal court — in support of these three goals.

 

Liz Jordan joined CREEC as our first CREEC Fellow in June, 2017, proposing a project to challenge conditions in immigration Image: Woman with glasses and curly hair smilingdetention facilities.  Since that time, Liz and other CREEC lawyers and paralegals:

Image: GEO Detention Center in Aurora

Based on the success of Liz’s fellowship project, we decided to create a permanent Immigration Detention Accountability Project.

The Project joins — and complements — CREEC’s ongoing education and litigation projects challenging discrimination in government, prisons and jails, public accommodations, housing, and other arenas.

 
 
 
 
The Project’s website can be found by clicking here, please check up on that site for Project and case related updates in the future.

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