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Mentally Disabled Immigrants Face Deportation

Mentally Disabled Immigrants Face Deportation

Immigrant detainees face enormous challenges in representing themselves at hearings that decide their fate. But imagine if a detainee also struggles with a mental disability?

Public interest law center Texas Appleseed and corporate law firm Akin Gump are releasing an 88-page report that documents the mistreatment of immigrants with mental disabilities in Texas, where 29 percent of immigrant detainees are held.

One example in the report describes a 50-year old legal permanent resident with schizophrenia who was arrested for trespassing on private property. The court declared him incompetent to stand trial and sentenced him to 90 days in a mental institution. Instead he was transferred to a detention center in southern Texas where he went weeks without medication. He received no legal counsel and was swiftly deported to the Dominican Republic before his family found out.

This is only one of many tragic stories, and the experiences of mentally disabled immigrants who stayed in the country are not much better. In one case study, a refugee with “severe mental limitations” was left at a gas station without money. In a separate incident, a schizophrenic woman who spoke only Russian was left in a dangerous area at 1 a.m with only the clothes on her back.

The Washington Post recently posted a government memorandum in which Chief of Detention and Removal Operations James M. Chaparro commends the work of ICE and adds “we anticipate achieving the Agency goal of 150,000 criminal alien removals in FY10.” Chaparro goes on to discuss plans to exceed their goal, as if he were discussing product sales instead of human lives.

When the justice system is pushed to fulfill a specific quota, it cannot be truly just. With the fate of individuals and their families in the hands of courts, they have the legal and ethical responsiblity of determining each sentence based on the severity of the crime and the circumstances of the case.

Recently Human Rights Watch and the ACLU filed lawsuits on behalf of two mentally disabled immigrants who have been held in custody for four years.  The two immigrants involved are Jose Antonio Franco, who is mentally retarded and cannot tell time or his age, and Guillermo Gomez Sanchez, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Both are legal residents. Representatives argue that it is a violation of their right to freedom from indefinite detention and their right to a fair hearing. Sarah Mehta, Aryeh Neier fellow with Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, asserts, “An immigrant so disabled that he cannot tell time is unlikely to recognize that he’s spent four years of his life in detention…ICE needs to enforce immigration law – that is its job – but it needs to ensure basic fairness for people who are clearly disadvantaged, and sometimes even lost, in the system.”

The vast majority of immigrants with disabilities are not fortunate enough to have high-profile human and civil rights organizations represent them, making the need for reform even more urgent. Sign the petition to call for reform of the broken immigration system. And sign the petition to keep immigrant families together.

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97 comments

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1:26PM PDT on Aug 18, 2010

The bottom line is, we are all human and children of God. We are each others helpers/here to learn from each other. People should not be treated like cattle. It is our right to help those we can, and share our bounty with others. America and people in general take too much for granted. We are blessed, lets share our blessings. No one is perfect, no matter how rich or poor. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Adding to the problem, many in power are corrupt. Who do we trust?

2:37PM PDT on Jun 7, 2010

How did they get here?? We don't take care of our own disabled people! We are expected to take care of them.???? We don't take care of our elderly! Too busy taking care of the illegals! Amazing!!

11:35PM PDT on Apr 25, 2010

Thanks for sharing.

5:16PM PDT on Apr 11, 2010

I AGREE WITH MOST OF THE COMMENTS GIVEN HERE WHEN IT COMES TO KEEPING THE IMMIGRATION CRISIS FROM GETTING WORSE, AND ESPECIALLY IF THESE PEOPLE ARE COMING HERE WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES, OF GOD KNOWS WHAT NATURE!!! THEY WILL DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD HERE, AND WE HAVE ENOUGH PROBLEMS WITH VIOLENCE AND POVERTY NOW!!! KEEP THEM AWAY, OR AT LEAST, IF THEY ARE KNOWN TO BE MENTALLY ILL, SEND THEM BACK!!!

9:27AM PDT on Apr 6, 2010

Noted

4:30AM PDT on Apr 5, 2010

thanks for post

7:09PM PDT on Apr 4, 2010

Yet another Care2 silly article about immigration and the horrors of our present system. It seems that the author has taken a few selected anecdotes and cobbled them together, without giving any background on the stories or the people. For example, the legal permanent resident with schizophrenia caught trespassing. Does he have a home, relatives, a doctor, etc? Where did he come from? It says he was held without his medication, so surely someone was caring for him. But as usual, when it comes to any story regarding immigration, solid facts and real information is lacking.

Also note that at the end of this article, which is supposed to be about mentally incompetent immigrants, there is a plug for their petitions about immigration "reform" and keeping immigrant families "together." In other words, petitions to give amnesty to people here illegally, and open the gates to families of those who have sneaked in here without going through the proper channels. I think I'll pass, Care2.

5:14PM PDT on Apr 4, 2010

What, seriously...?

4:56PM PDT on Apr 4, 2010

Just saying- why must everybody assume that 'immigrant' means that they are illegal?

12:22PM PDT on Apr 4, 2010

how did a severely disabled person,who "Quote"doesnt even know the what day it is...how did he get to the USA???where is his family??someone must of helped him into the country,or is he not so dumb,that he knew he would be better off in a foreign land

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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