Mentally Disabled Immigrants Deserve Due Process

Nina Bernstein’s article in today’s New York Times, “Mentally Ill and in Immigration Limbo,” exposes a particularly chilling feature of our immigration system: the lack of protections for mentally disabled individuals whom the government is seeking to deport from the United States.

Indeed, as the article notes, Ms. Jiang is luckier than most in that she is represented by counsel. There is no right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings, and countless mentally ill persons face the prospect of deportation without counsel’s assistance. Unable to understand their proceedings or present their cases, such individuals are at great risk of being deported erroneously. And unlike in the criminal and other civil contexts, the immigration laws provide no clear procedure to determine competency or afford other basic safeguards.

The Obama administration should take immediate steps to ensure that all people are afforded the protections they deserve.

Counsel should be appointed in all immigration proceedings. But Ms. Bernstein’s article shows how counsel is uniquely needed when it comes to mentally disabled persons. The government should also create procedures for affording individuals with a competency hearing and, for the appointment of an individual who can stand in the stands in the shoes of a mentally incompetent litigant and speak for his or her interests. Immigration judges should also be given authority to terminate proceedings against mentally disabled persons where appropriate. Finally, the government should offer training programs and materials on mental health issues to all immigration judges.

Until these much needed changes come about, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project will continue to advocate (PDF) to ensure that the immigration proceedings of the mentally disabled are fair. Denying mentally disabled persons due process is not what America is about.

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Put in context, the NYT article and this post are disingenuous to the max. Both the ACLU and the NYT have no interest in our laws being enforced; they're simply seeking edge cases which they can use to emotionalize this issue and to discourage enforcement.

P.S. Regarding that context, put the NYT reporter's name into the tag search at my site to see my backgrounder on her "reporting" going back several years.

P.P.S. The ACLU is collaborating with the Mexican government and might sue the U.S. in an effort that would have the impact of allowing that foreign government to profit from illegal activity inside the U.S.


Did you know that in the US mentally disabled persons are being placed in nursing homes that are homes to our elderly? Elderly patients are subjected to abuse from this mentally disabled persons. Ever since state hospitals have been closed or they only handle a few patients because some bright person thought the state was taking away their rights. Mentally disabled persons are on our streets with no help at all.

So if your going to help the Immigrant mentally disabled person I suggest you get them a warm coat and find them a bridge to live under.


Maggie, the health care "system" in the US is hopelessly broken, and there will be no end to what you describe in the near future. The only hope of ending the elder abuse is universal coverage, regardless of employment status.

24, just stop. I don't know or care about the NYT, but the ACLU is most definitely interested in enforcement of laws that concern civil rights. Read, for goodness' sake!


Bilski you are probably right, but that is not a good enough answer. When the Immigrant get his/her due process. Where do they go?

Your comments about the ACLU is interested in enforement of laws that concern civil rights. What were they doing when the states were forced to close these hospitals because of civil rights? Where were they then?

The ACLU is so concerned about the Immigrant getting due process and that probably will happen. What happens to the person afterwards. Who picks up the ball then. The ACLU?


Maggie, I agree with you. Will he ACLU also pick up the tap for ESL education, Welfare assistence, childcare assistance and all that for a ILLEGAL immigrants. They have babys to ensure theire stay in the US. How many LEGAL immigrants, who became US citizens have those benefits, and they made the effort to learn to speak english. If ILLEGALs get caught send them and their family back to their homeland.

Denise Ballard

I pray that what has happen to the individuals @ TX State School for the Mentally Disabled gets more attention.
I wish their identity was kept private.
I am a Rep. for "A Vision for You" in Lincoln Ne. If any Parent/Gaudian is ready for a major chane, I personally will see to it that your Son or Daughter or the Individual that you are a Gaurdian for gets all the help they need to heal from this tragedy. Through the Grace of God they can heal & be centered around new people that they could really trust. God Bless the victims & their Families & loved ones. God Help the Men & Women who comitted such Evil, Illegal acts.

What about our ...

Reagan let the illegals in and kicked out the disabled. I'd like to care for these illegals that are disabled but being that the media coddles these illegals to no end when you mention hardworking illegals I think of hardworking displaced AMERICANS. When you mention mentally disabled illegals I think of AMERICANS who are out on the streets that have no help at all.

I used to think the ACLU was for all Americans but it's clear they have their agenda and even take a political stance, which is absurd for who they should be and who they're supposed to represent.

paula rhoads

I am mentally disabled after a jobsite accident, and because my employer, U.S. Home Corporation, allowed its work comp insurance to lapse, I am unable to hire legal representation.

I was born in Kansas. Does that make me ineligible for legal help?

paula rhoads

Everybody thinks there is help for everybody who needs it, but no legal aid group provides legal help to people disabled by brain injuries on the job.

Then we are forced to "be pro se" despite our protestations. We are forced to interpret our own brainscans because the work comp judge Michael Harr refused to allow the brainMatters Inc. doctor to testify in court.

No rebuttal of the lying IME Dr. Robert E. Kleinman was allowed. Judge Harr refused repeatedly to sign the subpoenae for the eyewitness listed on the Employers First Report of Injury.

And DIvision Director MaryAnn Whiteside lied to me in writing when she told me nothing illegal or improper had occurred. My employer let its WC insurance lapse. I just now realized it.

This fraud by the Division has destroyed my family.

paula rhoads

Our judges refuse to recognize mental disability via traumatic brain injury. Colorado statutes allow suspension of the statute of limitations for this but judges refuse to recognize those statutes.

ColoradoWC judges ignore statutes providing 60 days after IME reports before a new application for hearing is due, so claimants can call witnesses to refute the IME lies. IMEs are then given gov. immunity, as are defense witnesses who conspire to lie and tell the same lies. And defense attorneys. Judges act like the claimant must be nuts to allege all these people are lying, when actually the evidence the defense withheld from personnel files that a judge ordered released proves clearly that they lied. Employer generated data. Our AG will not enforce the law against employers. Our Division boards are totally dominated by defense representatives in violation of Hellebust v. Sam Brownback.


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