DHS and Mentally Ill Respondents: Why Is the Fox Guarding the Hen House?


According to the Immigration Policy Center, over the last year or so, DHS has been working with stakeholders to improve the situation for mentally ill aliens in immigration court. Some issues are: (1) The absence of a formal mechanism to identify mentally ill aliens in immigration court; (2) Mentally disabled aliens are not appointed counsel in immigration court; (3) Aliens with mental disabilities cannot effectively represent themselves in court; and (4) Immigration judges have too many cases to effectively address the needs of aliens with mental disabilities. Perhaps DHS will issue some standards to protect mentally ill aliens, though it is unlikely that the standards currently under consideration would satisfy advocates for the mentally ill. (The Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Counsel has an informative website about this issue).

In the mean time, the BIA might take matters into its own hands. In the pending case of Matter of L-T-, the Boards has requested briefing on issues related to mentally ill aliens in immigration court. An amicus brief filed in this case by the Legal Action Center (formerly AILF) is available here.

Mentally ill aliens in immigration court face many difficulties. At the minimum, we should try to ensure that their due process rights are protected. As things stand now, that is not the case.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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