Resource: Safeguards for Mentally Disabled Respondents in Removal Proceedings

By: Christina P. Greer

January 1, 2013

Health Matrix

This Note discusses the difficulties mentally disabled individuals face in the immigration system and argues for a different approach to assist respondents, government attorneys, and immigration judges in protecting the rights of this vulnerable population until a right to appointed representation is gained through legislation or litigation. Part I of this Note examines the problems faced by unrepresented mentally disabled individuals in the US immigration system, including inadequate treatment and difficulties in accessing legal representation. Part II discusses the current legal protections for the mentally disabled in removal proceedings. Part III lays out the core arguments and recommendations of this Note: first, that immigration authorities must be trained regarding mental health and mental competency issues; second, that mentally disabled individuals must be identified early and must not be allowed to agree to their own removal; third, that mental health checks be required for all individuals placed in removal proceedings; and fourth, that either regulations should be promulgated creating a pro bono attorney appointment system or that greater safeguards be provided by DHS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review to create a fairer system for those found to be mentally incompetent and thus unable represent themselves in their removal proceedings.