Immigration Puzzle of the Week: Do We Deport People for Being Mentally Ill?

Years ago, when I worked for a non-profit representing detained indigent immigrants, a particular immigration judge often called our office when the government sought to deport an apparently mentally ill person. Her request was always that we interview the detainee — not that we represent him. I had the impression was that she wanted to salve her conscience before ordering the impaired person removed. 

At the judge’s urging, I dutifully visited immigration detention centers, and often encountered detainees with whom communication was impossible — and not because of a language barrier. Either the detainee was incapable of processing my legal explanation of his situation, or was not interested, because, say, he held a fervent belief that some divine being would save him from removal. The result was usually that the detainee went to his immigration hearings unrepresented, and invariably was ordered deported. I do not know what ultimately happened to these people, but I imagine that many met profoundly unpleasant fates.

The Department of Justice is now taking long overdue steps to provide procedural protections to the mentally ill in removal proceedings. Specifically, the Department recently announced Phase 1 of a plan to identify immigration detainees with mental conditions that impair their ability to understand deportation proceedings, and to provide such persons with attorneys. (Unlike in criminal court, there is no constitutional right to a free lawyer in immigration court).

To read the rest:

Immigration Law: Raise Your Hand If You Understand It

When Will We Stop Deporting U.S. Citizens?