CREEC recently had the privilege of joining the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community at two marquee events: Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo in Colorado and the DeafNation Expo in Nashville, TN. All together more than 2,400 people attended these two signature events.
Kris Shipley of Sprint Accessibility remarked about this year’s day at the Zoo, “Relay Colorado and Sprint Accessibility sponsored and hosted Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo on September 22, 2019 to support Deaf Awareness Month. It was a smashing hit! There were over 1,000 attendees including all ages of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing guests from the Denver metro area, Colorado Springs and northern Colorado. This was a good way to bring the community together and celebrate Deaf Awareness Month.”
Co-Executive Director Amy Robertson represented CREEC at Deaf Awareness Day at the Denver Zoo and reported, “It was great to see old friends and meet new people in the Deaf community. It also gave us a chance to introduce our Fast Advocacy for Communication (FAC) program, which folks seemed interested in.” CREEC looks forward to participating in future Deaf Awareness Days.
DeafNation Expo Nashville, TN – October 12, 2019
Director of CREEC’s Accessibility Project, Martie Lafferty joined 74 vendors and more than 1,400 participants at Nashville’s DeafNation Expo on Saturday October 12. Both vendors and participants came from multiple states including TN, KY, IN, GA, NC, AL, and MS. Martie and a sign language interpreter staffed CREEC’s booth where many participants stopped by to talk and pick up flyers, magnets, and stickers. Several participants signed up for CREEC’s newsletter or to discuss a specific communication barrier. In addition, Martie was a presenter and explained how CREEC challenges discrimination. Martie notes, “I had a terrific time at DeafNation. This was the best outreach event I’ve ever attended. It was energizing to talk with so many people who wanted to learn more about their legal rights and CREEC’s services. I also enjoyed seeing old friends and making new ones.” CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication document was a popular flyer at our DeafNation booth.
DeafNation a national touring trade show for, by and about Deaf people since 2003, seeks to attract a diverse group of attendees who share Deaf culture, needs, language, and information. You can learn more here.
Coming Soon: CREEC will be at the 2019 National Federation of the Blind of Colorado State Convention – October 31 – November 3, 2019
CREEC signed on as a partner in the Equity for All of Me. All the Time. campaign earlier this fall.
A national public education campaign Equity for All of Me. All the Time. was launched by the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Black Justice Coalition on April 4th in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights legacy. The campaign seeks to educate federal policymakers about the need for non-discrimination protections to ensure the whole person is protected at all times no matter where they are.
Victoria Kim (pronouns: she, her, hers), field organizer at the National LGBTQ Task Force, explains why this is personal for her by saying, “As a femme identifying woman of color, my womanness and my Asianness are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from discrimination based on race and sex, but because I’m queer, I, as a whole person, am not currently protected under federal law and am still at risk for discrimination in multiple ways. As we know, this leaves room for people to use that as a loophole to discriminate against folks in housing, employment, public accommodations, and more.”
Interested? Want to Learn More?
- All of Me. All the Time. Campaign
- Op Ed: “Finding an Apartment or House Is Often Scary When You’re LGBTQ” by Victoria Kim
- Op Ed: “The Civil Rights Act Needs To Include All Black People” by Victoria Kirby York
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 ICE litigation, which challenges ICE failures to provide adequate mental health care and discrimination against people with disabilities, including mental health disabilities. It was empowering to share the panel with a community organizer who supports people in detention with mental health disabilities and a NIJC attorney who represents detained people with mental health disabilities. In the afternoon, we worked on developing a road map for better advocacy and practiced developing advocacy plans for immigrants with disabilities using real-world scenarios.
Overall, it was such an invigorating experience sharing our work, learning about the work of others, and putting our heads together about how best to work together moving forward to advance the rights of immigrants with disabilities. This is why we love education at CREEC!
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 Fund.
Yesterday, we celebrated the life and mourned the passing of Judge Wiley Y. Daniel, a Senior United States District Judge in the District of Colorado. I have been privileged to practice before Judge Daniel from early in my legal career to earlier this year, and each time it was a delightful experience. He was always prepared, knowledgeable, practical, respectful, and funny. He worked hard to put everyone in the courtroom at ease so we could get to the business at hand, for example, carefully establishing out-of-state counsel’s college football and basketball allegiances before proceeding.
In one of my earliest appearances before Judge Daniel, I was arguing for wheelchair access to Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Opposing counsel observed that Red Rocks was built into the side of a steep mountain. Judge Daniel responded by asking (something to the effect of — unlike the below, we didn’t get the transcript), “That’s all well and good, but why should the burden of that geography fall only on people with disabilities?” He has, from the get go, understood the fundamental premise of disability civil rights.
In June, 2018, we again appeared before Judge Daniel on the question of wheelchair access to Red Rocks, though this time it was to seek final approval of a class action settlement addressing ticketing and scalping problems that had excluded people with disabilities. Final approval hearings are always upbeat events, as the parties have settled and appear before the judge jointly requesting his blessing of the settlement. Judge Daniel quizzed us on the details of the agreement, indicated his intent to approve it, and then took the opportunity to talk about civil rights and disability rights:
I have had occasion, both as a lawyer, and more importantly as a Judge, to see the evolution of the [ADA]. … [T]here have been strides to make accessibility more an important ingredient of public access to facilities, transportation modes and anything else. So what I’m really saying is, since I have been around a long time, I’m pleased that we’re making strides, but I’m also disappointed that lawsuits have to be filed before anybody, such as the City and County of Denver or other public bodies have to do the right thing, and so I hope that this outcome here can be another further example of how the law can work in a proactive way, but hopefully it also sends a message that even without a lawsuit, I think entities such as City and County of Denver and other public entities have an obligation to, on their own, figure out what should be done to make it easier, rather than harder, for folks with disabilities to have the same access that everybody else has.
[T]hat’s why one of the wonders of being a practicing attorney is [that] practicing attorneys, if they are interested in social justice, if they are interested in being social engineers for justice, can still play a vital role in moving the needle more quickly.
[A]ll of that is what I am uplifting and raising as an illustration [that] we are making progress, but we’re a long way from perfection, and I say that parallels some of the issues that still exist in this country on racial issues, where we have civil rights laws that go back to the mid 60s, but we still have, today, the clear rise of white supremacy, we clearly have nationalists that are running for congress today, running hateful statements and awful things, but they will get votes. And so I think our country has a long way to go to, in effect, liberate us from the battles that have been in existence and will remain in existence, and to the extent that courts can help resolve them, I’m just gratified that I can play some small role in this, and hopefully we will reach a point, at some point, where these laws will become truly an integral part of the fabric of our life.
Judge Daniel, we are surpassingly gratified that you played such a large role in advancing civil rights in Colorado and improving the fabric of our life. We miss you very much.
Success! CREEC’s Annual Event, held on September 19, 2019, was met with resounding success. A beautiful evening greeted all 121 attendees at the History Colorado Center, many of whom enjoyed the spectacular city view from the balcony before heading inside to listen to remarks from Co-Executive Directors, Amy and Tim, and this year’s Challenging Discrimination Award recipient, César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández.
This year’s event attracted teachers, lawyers, nonprofit professionals, volunteers, business people, graduate/law students, activists, parents, kids, and more. Amid the fun of the selfie photo booth with ‘Challenge Discrimination’ and ‘Badass Seeker of Justice’ signs, the ‘I Challenge Discrimination by…’ message board, and the overflowing information table with contributions from more than a dozen area non-profits, conversation flowed, and connections were made. The pervasive feeling seemed to be that together, we would continue to make positive change in our world.
Our event was made possible by the generous support of our 29 sponsors (who collectively gave more than $42,000), our event ticket holders, and CREEC’s numerous clients, ambassadors and advocates. Thank you one and all!
Whether or not you were able to attend CREEC’s event this year, you may enjoy checking out these resources:
- César’s inspiring remarks
- Photos from the evening
- Event slideshow showing highlights from CREEC’s year in review (alt text provided)
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 come visions of the impossible. If we can’t imagine the impossible, we can never make it real. Instead, we will be relegated to trying more of the same policy responses that led to large-scale confinement of migrants.
I begin my next book, Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants, with James Baldwin asking us to imagine more than what exists today. In The Fire Next Time, his powerful indictment of white supremacy’s pernicious ability to sit at the base of life in the United States of America, Baldwin wrote: “I know that what I am asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand.” Rooted in the racial injustices of the mid-twentieth century, Baldwin’s words are no less relevant today. He dares us to imagine what does not exist—even to imagine that for which words do not exist.
In recent years, human bondage has become increasingly commodified. Through hundreds of immigration prisons nationwide, ICE trades with GEO Group and CoreCivic. The federal government sends its money to private prison corporations and in exchange they lock up bodies, hidden behind the narrow windows of facilities from suburban Denver to the Sonoran Desert. Sometimes people are confined for so long that it seems as if the key has been lost. Instead, it is our moral compass that has skewed to the point that policymakers do not ask whether it is right to jail children. Instead, they ask whether children ought to be detained alone or with their parents.
The foundational legal safe harbor of asylum is being pushed to the brink of collapse, increasingly restricting human life to the lucky. This summer a father reached the Río Grande River ready to plead for his family’s safety with U.S. officials, only to be turned away. The family was pushed toward the river’s dangerous waters. When the father and his daughter waded across, neither would emerge alive. The world witnessed images of father and daughter dead on the riverbank, Valeria’s arm tucked inside Óscar’s shirt and wrapped around his neck, searching for the safety that would not come.
Ours is a world where the accident of birth often dictates the fruit that life reaps, where walls and fences, borders, bullets, and wealth often bring excess to our own plates while denying others the basic necessities of life. Ours is a world in which raw power tipped in the poisonous quiver of racism is returning to its traditional place at the head of the table. In moments like this, law too easily becomes a blunt instrument of indignity wrapped inside a whirlpool of myopic platitudes pitting order in a mythical fight against chaos. We must police and imprison, policymakers suggest, because if we do not the entire edifice of our reality will come tumbling upon us.
Law wielded as a weapon forces us to forget that there is also hope in law, that law can be a radical tool of resistance and a great moral compass. But for law to reach its potential, those of us who play with law, those of us trained as its wordsmiths, must do more than hope for justice. We must be willing to dream of one day living in a world where violence is not a feature of life, where premature death is but a tale from the past, and where the clank of steel doors and the isolation of barbed wire are nothing more than a nightmare from which it is possible to awaken.
I am humbled to stand with CREEC and with you as we close our eyes, not to avoid the trauma around us, nor to soften the pain of the blows we receive. We close our eyes to listen to the morning fog evaporate as the first rays of sunshine peer over the horizon, marking a new day. “On the seventh day… Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!… When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed…and they took the city.” In the biblical story of Jericho’s fall, the impossible came to pass because it was right that it be so and because Joshua’s followers dared to dream of a new beginning. Likewise, it is right that we embrace migrants, that CREEC advocates on their behalf, not despite their ordinariness, but because of it, and that collectively we dare to imagine what was previously unthinkable. “Sometimes we have to do the work even though we don’t yet see a glimmer on the horizon that it’s actually going to be possible,” writes Angela Davis.
We are living in a time of nightmares, some more easily forgotten then others. If nightmares can become reality, then why can’t dreams?
For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 19, 2019
COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS ORDERED TO PROVIDE VIDEOPHONES TO DEAF PRISONERS
Ruling comes three years after prisoner-initiated lawsuit filed.
DENVER — A Denver federal court yesterday ordered the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) to provide videophones for Deaf prisoners. This order ensures that Deaf prisoners will be able to communicate with their family and friends in sign language. The order comes after three years of litigation initiated pro se by lead plaintiff Bionca Rogers.
Ms. Rogers, a prisoner in the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility (DWCF), can hear, but her mother is Deaf. Before Ms. Rogers was incarcerated, she and her mother communicated by videophone – the now-widespread technology providing telecommunications for deaf people who communicate in sign language.
In late 2015, after arriving at DWCF, Ms. Rogers asked to contact her mother – guardian of her two young children – by videophone. CDOC refused, and told Ms. Rogers that she would have to use the teletypewriter, or TTY, 60-year-old technology that requires both parties to have TTY machines, and to type back and forth to each other. Since her mother – like most Deaf people – did not own a TTY, this required a three-step relay process: Ms. Rogers typed into the TTY; a TTY relay operator spoke her words to a video relay operator; who then interpreted them into ASL. When Ms. Rogers’s mother responded, the three-step process was repeated in reverse.
Because this is a very ineffective way of communicating – in no way equivalent to hearing prisoners speaking by phone with hearing friends and family – Ms. Rogers brought suit, initially under the First Amendment. A year later, CREEC attorney Amy Robertson joined the case on behalf of Ms. Rogers, and added as plaintiffs a number of other Deaf prisoners who were experiencing a similarly frustrating, ineffective, and unconstitutional communication situation.
“People in prison cannot be denied the right to communicate with loved ones. People with disabilities or people with disabled family members are no exception. This case ensures that the guidelines established in 1990 by the Americans for Disabilities Act are upheld and that Deaf people and their family members can communicate effectively while incarcerated in the State of Colorado. We are happy for our clients and glad to see that this type of discrimination will be discontinued in these facilities.”
The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) is a nonprofit membership organization whose goal is to ensure that everyone can fully and independently participate in our nation’s civic life without discrimination. http://creeclaw.org If you believe you have been denied effective communication because you are Deaf, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press Release: Broncos Stadium at Mile High Expands Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Fans with Open Captioning Service
For Immediate Release
Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019
Denver Broncos Football Club: Seth Medvin
CREEC: Amy Robertson 303-917-1870
BRONCOS STADIUM AT MILE HIGH EXPANDS SERVICES FOR
DEAF & HARD OF HEARING FANS WITH OPEN CAPTIONING SERVICE
Measures result from collaboration with deaf patron and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
DENVER — Stadium Management Company (SMC), the Metropolitan Football Stadium District (MFSD) and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) announced on Thursday that Broncos Stadium at Mile High will expand its services for deaf & hard of hearing fans by providing open captioning on its LED ribbon boards.
Fully operational for stadium events, the open captioning service will be displayed on three LED boards at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Two boards are located on the southeast and southwest side adjacent to the Ring of Fame nameplates and one is on the northwest corner of the stadium.
Broncos Stadium at Mile High already provides closed captioning services for fans’ mobile devices and on assistive listening devices available for checkout from guest relations staff. In conjunction with CREEC and Kirstin Kurlander Garcia, a deaf sports fan and stadium patron, the stadium will now caption information spoken over the public address system on the LED boards.
The open captioning service will be used at Broncos home games, Denver Outlaws Major League Lacrosse games and other major stadium events (international soccer games, AMA Supercross, etc.). For more information about how the Broncos support and service deaf & hard of hearing fans, please visit www.broncosstadiumatmilehigh.com/stadium-information/guest-information.
The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) is a nonprofit membership organization whose goal is to ensure that everyone can fully and independently participate in our nation’s civic life without discrimination. http://creeclaw.org
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 in ICE custody, it became clear to us at CREEC that this is essentially a massive prison system – people report shockingly similar poor conditions across the country. As a result, we decided to take on the system as a whole,” said Liz Jordan, director of CREEC’s Immigrant Detention Accountability Program.
Many of these facilities are operated by private, for-profit prison companies that charge an average of $208 per day for each person in their custody – more than double the $99 per day that the Federal Bureau of Prisons spends to incarcerate people convicted of federal crimes, according to that agency’s latest published statistics. At least 26 people have died while being held in ICE custody since Trump took office.
This suit – filed on August 19, 2019 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California –charges that ICE’s systemic failures violate the Fifth Amendment and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The complaint (found in full on CREEC’s case page) details how individuals in ICE custody are being denied health care, are facing discrimination due to their disabilities and being refused accommodations, and are being subjected to harmful isolation that amounts to punishment.
In this lawsuit, CREEC and our co-counsel seek an order requiring the federal government to comply with constitutional and statutory requirements for the treatment of detained immigrants. Government officials have long known about these inhumane conditions and the neglect of those in ICE custody, a situation that has worsened under President Trump’s policies. The mistreatment of sick and detained immigrants with disabilities was detailed in a report released in June by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. It revealed that ICE has continued to violate its own standards for facilities housing detained individuals. The suits seeks class action status so that any court rulings will apply to all facilities where ICE chooses to incarcerate people.
The named plaintiffs in this suit are detained at eight different facilities in six states: Adelanto Detention Center and Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in California; Florence Correctional Center in Arizona; Teller County Jail and Aurora Contract Detention Facility in Colorado; LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana; Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama; and Stewart Detention Center in Georgia.
The organizational plaintiffs in this suit have had to divert resources away from their missions to instead support immigrants struggling to survive in detention. For example, Al Otro Lado is a non-profit organization that provides pro bono legal services to immigrants, but has had to help them fight for medical and mental health care instead of fighting their cases. The Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice is dedicated to advocating for immigrant communities, but has had to hire staff and set up emergency protocols to help detained immigrants access adequate care.
ICE oversees a network of approximately 158 detention facilities across the country, where immigrants who are facing civil charges encounter cruel and abusive conditions that mirror – or are worse than – those found in criminal prisons.
And they are met with indifference when seeking medical and mental health care. Their complaints are frequently ignored or mocked by guards and staff.
“Guards told me it was better to be alone. It made me feel like no one cares about me. It was not better for me to be alone. I was living with my thoughts. I thought I was going to die,” said Hamida Ali, a plaintiff in Colorado. “Being in solitary can cause you so much distress. Especially people with disabilities. And that’s not okay.”
At least half of ICE’s detention bed capacity is at facilities operated by for-profit prison companies including CoreCivic or GEO Group. Both companies have a long history of refusing to provide adequate medical care to prisoners in their facilities. “However, despite knowing the inherent risks of contracting with private prison corporations, ICE continues to entrust them with the care of an ever-growing number of detained individuals,” the lawsuit states.
“ICE cannot simply contract with third parties to operate its detention centers and then wash its hands of the deplorable, unlawful conditions in those detention centers,” said CREEC’s Tim Fox, co-executive director and a lead attorney on this case.
According to the lawsuit, some detained immigrants have been forced into segregation after expressing suicidal thoughts – a tactic that only exacerbates their symptoms as they remain in total isolation for days, weeks or even months.
Others suffer from extreme mental illness but are thrown into segregation to languish alone when they need treatment to address their mental health concerns. Some are even confined simply for “clowning around,” a 2018 Human Rights Watch reported.
One plaintiff is diagnosed with schizophrenia but was placed alone in a dorm for nearly nine months, 24 hours a day. Despite a history of suicidal ideations and thoughts of self-harm, she was isolated with no opportunity for interaction with others. When she expressed that she was actively suicidal, a guard simply told her, “Don’t say that,” and did nothing further.
Consequences of Inadequate Care
Another plaintiff, Marco Montoya Amaya has experienced severe memory loss and other cognitive symptoms after he did not receive treatment for a brain parasite. And Ruben Mencias Soto, who has extreme difficulty walking, had his wheelchair taken away for over a month, making it impossible for him to make the long walk to the cafeteria. He went without food on the several days officers refused to let other detained individuals bring his meals to his cell.
The plaintiffs in this case also include people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) whose conditions have deteriorated since being in detention.
In the four facilities inspected by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and described in their June report, investigators found that problems went beyond overly restrictive segregation and inadequate medical care. Nooses were found in cells, bathrooms were dilapidated, moldy and sometimes not working, security incidents went unreported, and there were significant food safety issues, including spoiled food, that put detainees at risk. OIG’s inspection included Adelanto, Aurora, and LaSalle— all facilities where our plaintiffs are currently detained.
A 2019 Disability Rights California (DRC) investigation found that immigration enforcement policies implemented in recent years created a huge spike in detained individuals with disabilities.
“Most notable is the January 2017 Presidential order that terminated the exercise of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ for people with disabilities and other special populations,” the report said. “There has also been a dramatic rise in the detention of asylum seekers, who often carry with them experiences of trauma and have significant mental health needs,”
DRC found that ICE’s Adelanto facility uses counter-therapeutic practices, underreports data on the number of suicide attempts, and fails to comply with anti-discrimination laws or ICE standards when dealing with people with disabilities.
One plaintiff, Luis Rodriguez Delgadillo, is currently being held at Adelanto suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But his diagnoses are not being treated properly. His mental health has severely worsened while in ICE custody—he does not receive therapy and his medications changed, causing his mental health to deteriorate without needed support. He has expressed suicidal thoughts and harmful ideation.
“It is time for ICE to do what it should have been doing for years – to oversee and monitor its immigration detention centers, and to take effective measures to stop long-standing patterns of unlawful and unconstitutional conditions of confinement that place detainees at significant risk of harm,” Fox said.
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