Immigration proceeding unfair for individuals with mental illnesses

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A recent New England Law Review paper scrutinizes the legal system’s failure to provide due process rights for individuals with disabilities in immigration proceedings.

About 84 percent of individuals do not receive counsel in immigration proceedings, a figure that is undoubtedly higher for those with intellectual disabilities. In 2008, it was estimated there are 7,000 to 18,000 immigrant detainees in the U.S. with mental illnesses.

Though Congress first directed the attorney general to “proscribe safeguards” to provide counsel for individuals unable to represent themselves in 1952, the paper’s author, Georgetown Law’s Alice Chapman, describes a system with no regulations, where judges rush through cases and where case officers are often the individuals appointed counsel, creating an obvious conflict of interest situation.

To improve due process rights, Chapman recommends minimum competency standards, improved record keeping by the Department of Homeland Security and increased congressional funding for more representation, either in the form of a counsel, an accredited representative or a guardian.

“Thus far, all the relevant authorities –Congress, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Attorney General, and the courts of appeals—have avoided setting any minimum standards of fairness in such circumstances,” Chapman states.

The views in this article do not represent the views of DisAbility Rights Galaxy. Papers highlighted in DisAbility Rights Galaxy’s Law Review section were picked for their ability to be thought provoking and promote further discussion of disability rights issues.