While certainly not a new issue, deportation and its rather arbitrary stipulations are among today’s top human rights concerns. This article, published back in the summer of 2010, discusses the deportation of those with mental disabilities. Within the United States, the article states, those with disabilities are “at greater risk of erroneous deportation by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because courts do not ensure fair hearings for those not able to represent themselves.” What is more, immigrants with mental disabilities are oftentimes arbitrarily detained for indefinite amounts of time as, again, they are unable to sufficiently represent themselves both in and out of court. The article then lets the reader know that some of the individuals interviewed for the larger, more extensive report did not know their own names and even were at times delusional. One of the most enraging aspects about this entire situation is that, as Sarah Mehta states, “‘few areas of US law are as complicated as deportation, and yet every day people with mental disabilities must go to court without lawyers or any safeguards that make the hearings fair.’”
Without the pro bono aid of appointed lawyers to ensure fair trials, these individuals, given severe disabilities, are usually unable to complete a trial and are detained until further notice—which, in the U.S. legal system, hardly ever comes. Subjugated and dehumanized, these individuals—even U.S. citizens—are literally left to further break down in already overcrowded prisons at no fault of their own. Multifaceted issues like these indicate inherent flaws within both the legal and the social systems of the United States. How can our legal immigration system allow the mentally disabled to be present at a trial unrepresented? To not, at the very least, treat these immigrants as United States citizens—to offer them lawyers and other necessities of a fair trial—is not only to violate the UNDHR, but it is wrong.
How can we begin to address issues like these? It seems to me that to jump into the “what’s wrong with immigration” pool with this issue is to skip many of the more basic flaws with our system, but to let these people, many of whom do not even understand what deportation means, sit in prison is unjust. I’m certainly not clear on many of the other issues of immigration, but the direct implications of treating the disabled in this way are unacceptable.