Friday, February 11, 2011

Deporting the Mentally Disabled

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.


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  2. Great Post, Rush! I am shocked to read your post and see what the mentally handicapped are deported/ detained based on their disability. It seems as though simply because the mentally handicapped are not able to use their power of rationality they are almost considered inhuman therefore exempt from the rights stated in the Constitution or the UDHR and like you said, this is wrong. All citizens regardless of their mental state should have a right to a fair trial if it comes to having to be on trial. We deal with issues of illegal immigration continuously but no one draws much attention to such an issue. Explicitly defining the term “ people” as used in the UDHR could be a step towards solving this situation as the definition needs to clarify what exactly constitutes a “person.” The fact that person has the ability to utilize his or her own rationality is not a measure of who is a person or not. It will be tricky to determine the answer and resolve this problem but I agree that the method in which we are operating is immoral.

  3. At the surface, I think the issue comes down to representation a lot. I had to go to court for a misdemeanor a year ago. At the door, they separated out the people with lawyers from those without. Those with on the right, without on the left in the courtroom. It was literally a death-sentence to those without. Since then, the idea of fair/equal representation has been huge to me because without a defender I would have gone to jail, with one I didn't even get fined. A further question is whether money should be allowed to factor into how good of a defender you can have. Since the truth is the issue, shouldn't everyone get equal representation?


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