CREECblog

CREEC is hiring an Admin Paralegal

Full-Time Paralegal

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) is hiring a full-time paralegal to support our team of attorneys and provide administrative support to our Director of Operations. This position is ideal for a recent college graduate who is thinking about going to law school, and who would like to gain experience in the nonprofit and legal world. Although this role is based in our Denver office, you will be working remotely during the pandemic. Paralegal or administrative experience is not required, but we do request a commitment of at least two years.

Ideal Traits of a Paralegal Candidate

  • Do you want a job where you are encouraged to take ownership of projects and find creative solutions, and where you receive frank but productive and encouraging feedback?
  • Are you the most detail-oriented person you know?
  • Do you have strong writing, communication, and organizational skills?
  • 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?
  • Do you enjoy administrative tasks and keeping things running smoothly behind the scenes?

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

About CREEC

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. Our work includes education, outreach, and investigating and filing class action lawsuits nationwide. We represent individuals on a range of civil rights issues, but focus on the rights of people with disabilities and on the rights of people detained in immigration detention centers and prisons. Our educational projects range from one-time webinars and continuing legal education courses to providing technical assistance in the areas of disability rights and immigration detention conditions to other lawyers, advocates, and interested parties. We have attorneys in Denver, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Nashville. For more information on our work, visit www.creeclaw.org.

The work at CREEC can be intense. For this reason—and because we’re all pretty cool people—we strive for a friendly, congenial workplace, which we try to foster through weekly office lunches, taking the staff out for drinks, and, during the pandemic, Zoom happy hours. We work hard, but try not to take ourselves too seriously. In pre-pandemic times—when we worked in the same physical space—we were joined by several office dogs.

What We Are Looking For

  • Superior organizational, communication, 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. Although we prefer that you have experience with these programs, we will consider all otherwise qualified candidates and will provide on-the-job training as needed.
  • 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. You also should be comfortable and efficient working with little supervision.
  • Interest in the daily administrative aspects of running a nonprofit. This could include processing payroll, assisting with financial reconciliations, preparing invoices, and more. You should have a high tolerance for sometimes tedious projects, enjoy solving puzzles and thinking analytically, prioritize accuracy and integrity, and be highly organized.
  • 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.

Salary and Benefits

We offer a salary of $40,000, along with health insurance, a retirement plan with employer matching, and three weeks of paid leave.

Qualifications

Bachelor’s degree.
Two-year commitment.
Proficiency in a second language is a plus.
Prior experience in paralegal and administrative work not required.
Experience with Microsoft programs (Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, and PowerPoint) preferred.

How to Apply

Email a cover letter, resume, writing sample, and college transcript to resumes@creeclaw.org. Please write “Admin Paralegal (YOUR LAST NAME)” in the subject line. If you are a person with a disability and need accommodations in the application process, please let us know in your cover letter. We really need to hear why you are right for this job and why it is right for you. Applying by clicking a link on a job posting site does not really convey that message.

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.

D/deaf Coloradans: please take our health care communication survey!

CREEC is investigating D/deaf Coloradans’ communications access to health care.  We are starting with a survey to collect information about interpreters and other accommodations at medical facilities. Two icons: the ASL sign for "interpreter" and the caduceus, the symbol for the medical profession.

Take our survey for a chance to win a $50 Target gift card!

Your responses will later help CREEC advocate for more accessible health care systems in Colorado!

 

 

Please take our survey if you are:

  • A D/deaf patient who needs an interpreter for medical communications;
  • A D/deaf person who is a companion (spouse/parent/adult child) of a hearing patient; or
  • A hearing parent of a D/deaf child who needs an interpreter for medical communications.

Survey in ASL and English:

https://forms.gle/dxV4jxoZ1bDRC3Zx6

Survey in ASL and Spanish:

https://forms.gle/9CSEjzvhvzk7XYh9A

If you take our survey, you will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Target gift card.  Based on your responses to this survey, we may contact you for follow-up questions on VP. Everyone contacted for follow-up will receive a $20 gift card.

 

Martie Lafferty Writes for the Civil Rights Insider

banner logo for the Civil Rights Insider with the name of the publication written across clouds and the top portion of the American flag

Martie Lafferty, Director of CREEC’s Accessibility Project, was invited by the “Civil Rights Insider” to write an article about CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication (FAC) program. The “Civil Rights Insider” is a publication of the Federal Bar Association’s civil rights law section. You can read Martie’s full article below or on page 8 of this PDF of the Fall 2020 edition of the Civil Rights Insider.

CREEC’s Fast Advocacy for Communication Program

By Martie Lafferty Director, Accessibility Project, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC)

The Fast Advocacy for Communication (FAC) program addresses communication barriers impacting people with disabilities.  The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) https://creeclaw.org/ provides FAC at no cost to clients.

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 based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. CREEC’s Accessibility Project fights with urgency to make real the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar disability rights laws. Our FAC program is a crucial part of our strategy to address disability discrimination and ensure equal access.

The ADA requires businesses and government entities to provide effective communication to people with disabilities.[1] This means that businesses and government offices are required to ensure that their communications with people with disabilities are “as effective as communications with others.”[2] In order to ensure effective communication, it is often necessary to provide sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services.[3] Interpreters and other aid/services must be provided free of charge to people with disabilities.[4]

CREEC’s FAC program allows us to respond quickly and proactively when businesses or government offices refuse to provide Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Deaf-Disabled, or Hard of Hearing (DDBDDHH) people with sign language interpreters or other auxiliary aids and services necessary for effective communication. The highest demand for FAC is in regard to communication barriers in medical settings. However, we also use this approach to resolve denials of effective communication in other settings such as entertainment venues, adult educational settings, government programs, and attorneys’ offices.

The FAC process begins when a DDBDDHH person contacts us about the refusal of a business or government entity to provide effective communication for a future interaction such as an upcoming appointment or meeting. We are often able to complete intake the same day and, if FAC seems appropriate for the situation, to enter a retainer limited to FAC services. We then quickly send an educational letter to the business or government office explaining the ADA’s effective communication requirement and our client’s need for an auxiliary aid/service to ensure effective communication. The letter also provides links to resources for the requested aids/services. In most instances, the letter results in the entity agreeing to provide a sign language interpreter or other needed communication aid/service. When needed, we follow up with the provider to further discuss the situation. Over 80% of our FAC cases result in successful outcomes. For those that do not, we may offer additional services to our client including litigation when appropriate.

CREEC’s FAC program has resulted in successful outcomes including the following: 1. a rehabilitation center provided sign language interpreters for a 94-year-old Deaf man during his recovery from a stroke, 2. a birthing center provided sign language interpreters for a Deaf couple so that they could fully participate in the birth of their child, 3. a concert venue provided sign language interpreters so that a Deaf fan could enjoy one of her favorite performers, and 4. a county detention center provided sign language interpreters to a Deaf inmate for classes and installed a videophone so that he could equally participate in its phone program.

Currently most of our FAC work occurs in Colorado and Tennessee but we are working to expand this program nationwide. Please contact me at mlafferty@creeclaw.org if you are interested in more information about becoming a cooperating attorney for FAC in your state. Please also consider referring DDBDDHH people to CREEC for possible FAC or other assistance with barriers to effective communication. A downloadable FAC flyer is available online at https://creeclaw.org/fac/ Potential clients can contact us at intakes@creeclaw.org or (VP) 518-249-6088.

 

[1] Title II of the ADA covers state and local government entities. 42 U.S.C. § 12131.  Federal government entities and government entities that receive federal financial assistance are covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (RA).  29 U.S.C. § 794. Because the requirements of ADA Title II and the RA are largely identical, we only discuss the ADA herein. Title III of the ADA covers places of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C. § 12181.

[2] 28 C.F.R. § 35.160(a)(1); see also 28 C.F.R. § 36.303(a), (c).

[3] 28 C.F.R. § 35.160(b)(1); 28 C.F.R. § 36.303(b).

[4] 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(f); 28 C.F.R. § 36.301(c).

 

 

Lawsuit: Law enforcement fails to provide Oregonians with disabilities equal access to Portland demonstrations

burgandy to purple shaded background with #EqualAccess written on it and text that says, "People with disabilities should have equal opportunity to participate in public movements for social justice."Dispersal tactics violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, chill plaintiffs’ right to free speech

Portland, Oregon—A lawsuit filed last night on behalf of people with disabilities in federal district court in Portland argues that law enforcement tactics fail to provide equal access to public demonstrations calling for racial justice, robbing them of their constitutional right to assemble and protest. People with disabilities who participate in public demonstrations are subjected to force and crowd control policies that fail to accommodate or consider their disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Law enforcement gives little or no notice or opportunity to comply before law enforcements’ use of overwhelming force. This failure to provide reasonable accommodations or effective communication denies people with disabilities their freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

As a person with a disability, I rely on my service animal to navigate the world, including participating in protests, and I have a right to that accommodation. When law enforcement denies my right to protest, they silence my voice. No one should be silenced because they have a disability,” said Juniper Simonis, a plaintiff in the case. “It’s important to me to stand shoulder to shoulder with my community in public demonstrations for Black lives and against police violence. Mass movements for social justice are indispensable in the fight for equality.

Taking part in public demonstrations reflects a cherished American value. No one should be prevented from participating just because they have a disability,” said Brendan Hamme, senior staff attorney with Disability Rights Legal Center. “People with disabilities should have equal access to the world and be able to participate fully in society like everyone else.

The lawsuit focuses on how law enforcement tactics put protestors with disabilities at risk of harm. Those tactics include:

  • failing to issue warnings that are accessible to people who are Deaf or hard of hearing,
  • bull rushing crowds without adequate notice or an opportunity to comply causing protestors with mobility disabilities to be trampled or shoved to the ground,
  • using strobe lights that trigger epileptic seizures, and
  • using tear gas and other weapons that target whole crowds of people indiscriminately but can cause lasting damage to people with breathing or lung conditions.

The lawsuit seeks to improve how the police interact with people with disabilities who participate in public demonstrations. The plaintiffs argue that law enforcement changes could include using sign-language interpreters, using written signs, using electronic communications equipment to communicate with protesters, and using predesignated dispersal routes that are accessible. Other requested changes include discontinuing the use of weapons that target the whole crowd indiscriminately, such as noxious gasses and strobe lights that cause seizures.

Pilar Gonzalez Morales, senior staff attorney at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), explains, “This lawsuit seeks to effect meaningful change to stop local, state, and federal law enforcement from assaulting, brutalizing, and failing to accommodate individuals with disabilities during assemblies and protests and otherwise violating the rights of individuals with disabilities.

The lawsuit was filed by a team of attorneys at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), and Disability Rights Legal Center.  Disability Rights Oregon is serving as an organizational plaintiff.

The rights of people with disabilities to speak out against injustice is sacred. Throughout the disability rights movement, this has been a vital tool for securing equal opportunity under the law,” said Jake Cornett, Executive Director with Disability Rights Oregon. “After the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, law enforcement has failed to ensure the disability community has the same opportunity to safely exercise these rights as other Oregonians.

Resources:

Download the complaint: Wolfe v. City of Portland, Case No. 3:20-cv-01882-BR (November 1, 2020)

Read Disability Rights Oregon’s (DRO) Wolfe v. City of Portland FAQs

Read Plaintiff stories on DRO’s website: Philip’s Story  Melissa’s Story  Katie’s Story  Juniper’s Story

Are you an Oregonian with a disability who has had similar experiences at protests? You can share your story on this DRO webpage.

News stories:

The Oregonian – Local, state, and federal law enforcement…

KATU – Portland protest response tactics violate…

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About Disability Rights Oregon
Disability Rights Oregon upholds the civil rights of people with disabilities to live, work, and engage in the community. The nonprofit works to transform systems, policies, and practices to give more people the opportunity to reach their full potential. For more than 40 years, the organization has served as Oregon’s Protection & Advocacy system.

About Disability Rights Legal Center

Founded in 1975, Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) is a 501C-3 non-profit, public interest advocacy organization that champions the civil rights of people with disabilities as well as those affected by cancer. DRLC is a leader in bringing cutting-edge cases to court and in winning victories to protect and to expand the rights of people to help eliminate discrimination and other legal barriers.

About Miller Nash Graham & Dunn, LLP

At Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP, we like to think of ourselves as an established firm with strong traditions and fresh ideas. Although our roots in the Pacific Northwest go back more than a century, we pride ourselves on being creative thinkers who are committed to serving our clients, our community and each other in smart and innovative ways.

 

CREEC Receives Grant Increase from The Ford Foundation

Ford Foundation logo. Image of ball composed of many multi-colored circles next to the organization's nameThe Ford Foundation awarded CREEC an additional $100,000 toward its second year of core support for CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project (IDAP)! In October 2019, the Ford Foundation awarded a two-year grant of $150,000 in support of IDAP’s work. In October 2020, the foundation granted an additional $100,000 in support of IDAP, bringing the overall two-year grant total to $250,000.

“We are humbled and honored to receive support from the Ford Foundation for IDAP’s work,” stated Elizabeth Jordan, Director of the Immigration Detention Accountability Project. “This additional funding provides much-needed support for IDAP’s efforts including client needs during COVID-19 and new efforts on behalf of immigrants with disabilities at the southern border. We are grateful to The Ford Foundation for its continued and generous support.”

Welcome to the Board of Directors, Steve Dane!

Steve Dane - bald white man with a grey beard in a black suitWe are honored to welcome Stephen M. Dane as the newest member of CREEC’s Board of Directors. Steve is a civil rights leader in the fair housing, mortgage lending, and insurance discrimination world.

Steve has litigated a number of significant lending and insurance discrimination cases. He was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the class action litigation Toledo Fair Housing Center v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. ($5.35 million settlement) and was co-counsel for the plaintiffs in HOME of Richmond v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. ($100.5 million jury verdict). Steve has testified before both houses of Congress on mortgage lending discrimination issues, and is the author of many articles in the field, including Eliminating the Labyrinth: A Proposal to Simplify Federal Mortgage Lending Discrimination Laws, 26 U. Mich. J. L. Ref. 527 (1993); Disparate Impact Analysis in the Mortgage Lending Context, 115 Banking L.J. 900(1998); Application of the Federal Fair Housing Act to Homeowners Insurance, Chapter Two of Insurance Redlining (G. Squires, ed., 1997); The Exposure of Securitization Trustees to Liability Under the Federal Fair Housing Act for Poorly Maintained Real Estate Owned Properties, Banking L. J. (Feb. 2014), at 153-164.

Steve has also litigated several accessible design and construction cases, such as National Fair Housing Alliance, Inc. v. A.G. Spanos Companies, 542 F. Supp. 2d 1054 (N.D.Cal. 2008) (involving 82 multi-family projects constructed around the country since 1991; settlement valued at $15 million), and claims involving local and state governments’ failures to “affirmatively further fair housing” as a condition of their receipt of federal funding. See United States of America ex rel. Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York, Inc. v. Westchester County, New York, 495 F.Supp.2d 375 (S.D.N.Y. 2007); 668 F.Supp.2d 548 (S.D.N.Y. 2009).  Steve was also co-lead counsel in a successful fair housing challenge to Alabama’s immigration reform legislation. Central Alabama Fair Housing Center v. Magee, 835 F. Supp. 2d 1165 (M.D. Ala. 2011).

Steve is currently the owner of Dane Law, LLC, a firm dedicated to representing fair housing agencies, non-profits, legal aid organizations, and their clients. He is an honors graduate of The University of Notre Dame (B.S., Mathematics, 1978), and received his law degree from The University of Toledo College of Law (J.D., magna cum laude, 1981). He is a former law clerk to the Honorable Pierce Lively of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 1998 Mr. Dane was selected as one of eight Lawyers of the Year by Ohio Lawyers Weekly, and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America inthefieldofCivilRights.

Steve is also editor of the Civil Rights Insider, the quarterly eNewsletter of the Federal Bar Association’s Civil Rights Law Section. In 2000, he received the Public Interest Award from a consortium of legal services organizations, including Advocates for Basic Equality and the Equal Justice Foundation. For 17 years Steve has served as Acting Judge of the Perrysburg, Ohio Municipal Court, and is a former Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the Diocese of Toledo. Steve also served as President of the Toledo Bar Association in 2010-2011.

In addition to his distinguished legal career and civil rights expertise, Steve brings longtime experience with nonprofit board service to CREEC’s Board of Directors.

 

Federal Judge Rejects ICE’s ‘Weak’ Implementation of Court-Ordered Custody Determinations of High Risk Individuals and Other Safety Measures

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb inside detention centers, Court finds ICE has fallen “far below” compliance with its previous injunction.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Last night in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal granted civil rights organizations’ motion to enforce a preliminary injunction in their class-action lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), ordering the agency to perform custody determinations to all individuals in all of their detention centers across the country with medical risk factors that increase their risk of serious COVID-19 complications in compliance with the Court’s April 20 injunction.

In his order, Judge Bernal found that ICE has fallen “far short” of complying with the April 20 order, adding that, “the Court is gravely concerned that Fraihat custody decisions are a disorganized patchwork of non-responses or perfunctory denials” and that, “more active monitoring of Defendants’ compliance is needed.” The Court went on to issue several clarifications to the April 20 injunction including ICE’s obligation to identify and track individuals with risk factors within five days of their detention and to make timely custody determinations, including individuals subject to mandatory detention.

The order also clarifies limits on transfers between facilities, a practice that has contributed to massive COVID-19 outbreaks inside detention centers, and bans solitary confinement as a quarantine measure, a punitive and inhumane practice that goes against public health recommendations.

“This order shows that ICE has essentially ignored the court for nearly six months,” said Pilar Gonzalez Morales, a senior attorney at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center. “ICE’s actions are not just a blatant disregard for the Court but have needlessly endangered the lives of thousands of immigrants in its custody. We are pleased that the Court has clarified the need for widespread and regular testing, halted unnecessary transfers, and prohibited ICE from using harmful isolation practices.”

“ICE has continued to exhibit callous disregard for the health and safety of people within its custody since the preliminary injunction order was issued nearly six months ago, even as the pandemic accelerates and outbreaks crop up in facilities across the country,” said Rosa Lee Bichell, a Justice Catalyst Fellowship Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates. “This order clarifies once and for all that ICE’s ‘disorganized’ and ‘weak’ efforts have been wholly insufficient to prevent the needless infection of thousands of people within its custody, and that all people with risk factors in detention are worthy of meaningful review for release.”

“As we celebrate this win, we must ground ourselves in the abhorrent reality that people on the inside continue to face. And that is: We should not have to be here,” said Veronica Salama, an attorney at the SPLC. “ICE’s failure to release people from detention bears responsibility for over 6,000 positive cases and the loss of eight individuals who should be alive and free today. This disaster is a result of ICE’s deliberate indifference to the humanity of the immigrants they choose to detain.”

The Fraihat v. ICE lawsuit filed by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in August of 2019 seeks an end to the inhumane and traumatic experience of ICE detention affecting tens of thousands across the country.

Read the order here.

Read more about the case here.

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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 based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. https://creeclaw.org/.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting, housing, and juvenile justice. https://www.dralegal.org.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

Orrick has 27 offices worldwide, and focuses on serving the Technology, Energy & Infrastructure and Finance sectors globally. Clients worldwide call on Orrick’s teams for forward-looking commercial advice on transactions, litigation and compliance matters.  https://www.orrick.com/en/About-Us.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is an international law firm of more than 700 attorneys with offices in New York, Washington, Houston, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Brussels, Milan and Rome. The Firm is headquartered in New York City at 787 Seventh Avenue. Tel: 212.728.8000. https://www.willkie.com/about-us

black and white photo. close-up of prison bars

Months Later, the Fraihat Hotline Remains Necessary

old fasiioned red rotary-style telephone with the words "Court Ordered Hotline" written beneath and the words, Fraihat v. ICE" in the upper corner“We couldn’t keep up with the calls and voicemails at first,” said Pilar Gonzalez Morales, Senior Staff Attorney at CREEC, “it was a tsunami of people who were in crisis, seeking re-assessment and needing help to do so.” In response to a motion for an emergency preliminary injunction filed by CREEC and co-counsel on March 25, 2020 in Fraihat v ICE, the court ordered ICE to conduct new assessments for every person at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 in ICE custody for release redetermination. If ICE cannot take the medically necessary precautions to protect medically vulnerable people in immigration detention, they should be released and allowed to shelter in place safely in their homes. To ensure contact with those medically vulnerable people, the court also ordered ICE to create a free, confidential hotline that detained people could call to contact Fraihat class counsel in May 2020.

The word spread quickly. “The sheer volume of calls to the hotline showed us that ICE had followed at least one requirement of the court’s order and that was to post the redetermination ruling and hotline number in ICE detention jails,” said Gonzalez Morales. Unfortunately, it has also revealed the chaos of ICE’s inadequate COVID-19 response and utter lack of a consistent, navigable process in ICE detention prisons for immigrants who are eligible for re-determination and their advocates to follow. “We have learned from hotline callers that what should be a straight-forward redetermination application process for people who are medically vulnerable and scared of the COVID breeding ground that exists in congregate settings like ICE prisons, is actually a nearly impossible path full of unnecessary and cruel barriers created by ICE, “ said Elizabeth Jordan, Director of CREEC’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project. “The lack of regard for basic human health reveals a callous and utterly ineffective, broken system – a system that is being financially supported by every single taxpayer in the United States. It’s a travesty.”

As summer has turned to fall, calls from people in detention who are at increased risk of severe medical complication or even death due to COVID-19 infection and their advocates continue to flow in. CREEC, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) staffers have fielded the nearly 600 calls that have come in since May 2020. Natalie M. Chin, City University of New York law professor and Co-Director of the Disability and Aging Justice Clinic (DAJC) has been following the Fraihat v ICE case and thought that some of her students might be interested in helping with the hotline. Professor Chin states, “DAJC is an extensive in-house clinic that requires our student legal interns to engage in approximately 30-36 hours of weekly clinic work that is geared toward advancing the rights, dignity, and self-determination of persons with disabilities and older adults. In addition to representing clients, students engage in an advocacy project that is focused on tackling disability and aging issues in a more systemic way. The Fraihat hotline provides a unique opportunity this fall for DAJC students to provide support and assistance to disabled and aging persons who are in ICE detention facilities that have little to no regard for their health or safety. We are excited to support the work of CREEC, SPLC, and DRA on the important and often overlooked issue of disabled and aging individuals who are suffering in ICE detention.”

Through November, four of Ms. Chin’s students are helping staff the hotline – hearing the stories of people in detention, providing information on how detained people can ask ICE to determine whether or not they are members of the Fraihat class, and providing them with pro se documents they need to complete the redetermination application at the facility where they are being held. “As a legal intern who aspires to advocate on behalf of marginalized individuals when I become a lawyer, it is an honor to work on the Fraihat hotline. The hotline provides an opportunity to support and hold space for individuals who are treated inhumanly in ICE custody with the goal of achieving justice within an unjust system.” Jennifer Lopez, CUNY third-year law student.

CREEC and co-counsel are grateful to the volunteer CUNY law students who are helping to staff the hotline this fall. “We and the people we’re working to support in ICE prisons need the help,” said Pilar Gonzalez. “We’re also glad that the word is getting out about ICE’s misdeeds, inhumane policies, and inept systems. The more people who know about what’s going on, the more people will be outraged and will work alongside us and our Fraihat class members to bring needed change.”

If you or someone you know is in ICE detention and may be eligible for release redetermination due to medical vulnerabilities associated with a heightened risk of complications due to COVID-19, contact us.

 

 

CREEC Receives Two-Year Grant from The Colorado Health Foundation

Grant will support a project to help remove communications barriers to health care for Deaf people.

The Colorado Health Foundation logoThe Colorado Health Foundation (CHF) awarded CREEC a $150,000 grant over two years through its Amplifying Health Advocacy program. CREEC’s project proposes to investigate denials of legally required effective communication to Deaf Coloradans at health care facilities and then work to remedy violations systemically by providing effective policies and training. By removing this significant barrier – lack of effective communication – this project will help bring health within reach for the Deaf community in Colorado, a community that tends to be marginalized in our current economic, political, and health care systems.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) require medical providers to ensure that communication with Deaf people is as effective as communication with hearing people. For many medical providers working with Deaf people, this requires a qualified sign language interpreter, and not – as commonly but mistakenly assumed – written notes or lip reading. At CREEC, we know from our legal advocacy work with Deaf clients and from our disability rights advocacy colleagues that, unfortunately, Deaf people are frequently denied qualified sign language interpreters in medical settings despite the requirements of the ADA and ACA. As a result, Deaf people are often unable to access important information about their own health, describe their medical history and symptoms, or ask their health care providers questions. Health care providers also often require Deaf people to provide or pay for their own interpreters, which is both explicitly illegal under the ADA and ACA and puts an additional burden on low-income Deaf families.

“CREEC’s Accessibility Project has used the powerful investigative tools of civil rights testing to challenge discrimination against people who use wheelchairs,” said Amy Robertson, CREEC’s Co-executive director and lead attorney on this project. “Because of the generous support of the Colorado Health Foundation, we will now be able to use these tools to address discrimination against Deaf people in health care at a systemic level and during a time when full access to health care has never been more important.”

The Colorado Health Foundation believes that health is a basic human right and brings health in reach for all Coloradans by engaging closely with communities across the state through investing, policy advocacy, learning, and capacity building.

Landmark Accessibility Settlement Reached with the City of San Jose

The Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), along with co-counsel Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho (GBDH), reached a landmark settlement with the City of San Jose on behalf of a class of persons with mobility disabilities. The settlement requires San Jose to install or remediate over twenty-seven thousand accessible curb ramps throughout the City over the next eighteen years, and to appropriate more than $130 million to fund this work. Importantly, class members are able to request curb ramp construction and rclose up of a builder's level showing an unsafe curb ramp access point and a large crackemediation at specific locations according to this settlement. The settlement was approved by the Court on September 2, 2020.

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. In San Jose alone, there are approximately 157,000 people with mobility disabilities. Missing, broken, or poorly maintained curb ramps prevent people with mobility disabilities from safely using city sidewalks, crosswalks, and other walkways to participate in daily activities like getting to work or going to school.

Tim Fox, Co-Executive Director at CREEC and attorney in this case commented, “We initiated this case after receiving reports of people experiencing life-threatening situations as a result of unsafe curb ramps – including being thrown out of their wheelchairs and onto the pavement of busy streets when the wheel of their chair became lodged in a curb ramp gap or hit other construction defects. One person had to wait for more than ten minutes on the pavement before someone stopped and helped them back into their chair. Clearly this is unacceptable.”

In 2014 and in response to a letter sent by CREEC and GBDH, the City of San Jose agreed to work cooperatively to resolve the claims through structured negotiations. In 2016, the parties finalized an Interim Settlement Agreement and have now reached a full resolution.

Andrew Lee, a Partner at GBDH, states, “Curb ramps are necessary to achieving the integration and equal opportunity mandates of the ADA and other disability non-discrimination laws.  As a result of this settlement, residents and visitors of San Jose with mobility disabilities will no longer have to choose between risking their personal safety by traveling in the streets or staying home and foregoing participation in community life.”

“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 Fox. “We are pleased to be working with the City of San Jose to fulfill the promise of those laws by ensuring that people with mobility disabilities can travel independently and safely throughout their city and we encourage all cities to ensure that their pedestrian way accessibility meets or exceeds legal requirements.”

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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 based on race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. https://creeclaw.org/

 

Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho is one of the oldest and most successful plaintiffs’ public interest class action law firms in the country.  GBDH represents individuals against large companies and other entities in complex class and collective action lawsuits. The firm has three primary practice areas: employment discrimination, wage and hour violations, and disability access, and also brings other public interest cases, including voting rights, environmental protection, and consumer cases. The firm has a national practice, litigating cases in federal and state courts throughout the country. https://gbdhlegal.com/

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