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  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

ACLU of Colorado Wins Nationwide Injunction Against ICE FOIA Violations

DENVER – After more than three years of litigation, the federal district court in Colorado agreed with the ACLU that ICE has been repeatedly violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by denying immigration lawyers access to their clients’ files when ICE deemed the clients to be “fugitives.” In an extensive 44-page ruling, the court issued a final judgment and imposed a permanent nationwide injunction against the challenged practice. 

“ICE invented a reason for nondisclosure that isn’t found anywhere in the FOIA statute,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Thanks to the court’s ruling, ICE will no longer be able to impede immigration attorneys from advocating for their clients by refusing to disclose documents they are entitled to by law.”

Immigration attorneys are not entitled to court-ordered discovery, so they must rely on FOIA to obtain the government’s documents about their clients. In May 2013, immigration attorney Jennifer Smith filed a FOIA request to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) for records related to the immigration status of one of her clients. USCIS identified a set of documents as responsive and referred the request to ICE, which refused to release them. In a written denial, the agency said it was ICE’s “practice” to deny access to the FOIA process for those it deemed to be “fugitives,” including Ms. Smith’s client. 

The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to promptly provide responsive documents to any person who requests them. An agency may only deny a FOIA request based on one or more of nine stated exemptions in the law. In this case, ICE did not provide Smith any legal justification based on the exemptions for denying access to her client’s immigration file.

Soon after the lawsuit was filed, ICE provided the specific documents Ms. Smith had requested and then argued that the case should be dismissed as moot. The litigation continued, however, as the ACLU argued (successfully) that it must prevent future violations of FOIA by ordering ICE to stop invoking its “fugitive” practice entirely.  

“Lawyers cannot effectively represent their non-citizen clients without access to information,” Silverstein said. “ICE’s ‘practice’ of denying records requests based on ‘fugitive’ status is arbitrary at best and unlawful at worst. We’re glad that the court agrees.” 

In addition to Silverstein, the legal team included ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Sara Neel and ACLU Cooperating Attorney Dan Culhane.

Resources: 

View the U.S. District Court ruling: https://aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2019-12-16-92-Order-on-SJ-Motions.pdf

View the ACLU of Colorado complaint: https://aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1-Complaint-082416.pdf

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The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.



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