Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union have released a new report, Deportation by Default: Mental Disability, Unfair Hearings, and Indefinite Detention in the US Immigration System. Based on 104 interviews with non-citizens with mental disabilities, their family members, social workers, psychiatrists, immigration attorneys, judges and rights advocates, the report indicates that non-citizens with mental disabilities face erroneous deportation by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The report states that non-citizens with mental disabilities face numerous human rights violations and do not have due process in the US immigration system. The term “non-citizen” is used to refer to “long-term permanent residents, asylum-seekers, individuals with work visas, and individuals who are undocumented.” The report also indicates that non-citizens with mental disabilities are often unjustifiably detained for years. In 2008, there were an estimated 57,000 individuals with mental disabilities in detention, representing 15 percent of the total non-citizen population in detention.
The report documents multiple cases where non-citizens with mental disabilities facing immigration hearings did not understand what the judge asked them in court (one individual did not know what a judge was), did not understand the concept of deportation (saying that they wanted to be deported “to New York” or “to Louisiana”), could not read or write, tell time, name their birth place, or say what day it was, and some were not represented by an attorney.
Among the recommendations, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union calls on the government to appoint counsel for non-citizens with mental disabilities during immigration proceedings and to have their rights protected in the courtroom. Furthermore, the report calls for theImmigration and Nationality Act to exempt from mandatory detention all non-citizens with mental disabilities, and to develop regulations that protect the rights of non-citizens with mental disabilities in immigration court proceedings, including directing immigration judges in appropriate cases to appoint counsel and terminate proceedings.
See Deportation by Default: Mental Disability, Unfair Hearings, and Indefinite Detention in the US Immigration System, July 25, 2010, atwww.hrw.org.
See also the press release “US: Confused, Alone, and in Legal Limbo: People with Disabilities Unlawfully Detained and Deported,” Human Rights Watch, July 26, 2010, at www.hrw.org.
For information about deportation of individuals with mental illnesses in Canada, see “SSO Discussion Paper on Deportation of Non-citizen Mentally Disordered Offenders,” Mental Health Notes, April 29, 2010, atwww.ontario.cmha.ca/mhn.