Photo: Immigrants With Mental Illnesses Falling Between the Cracks, Shows Need for Immigration Reform
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people are caught up in the immigration system in the United States annually. Some of them have severe mental disabilities, and often fall through the cracks. Among these people, some even go missing.
Nearly 400,000 go through the U.S. immigration detention system each year. Among them are men, women, and children. For many of them, not having an attorney to represent them in immigration court is a detriment, but for those with disabilities it can be far worse.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch launched a class action suit last after as they learned of the case of Jose Franco.
Franco, a mentally disabled young man, was held for five years after an immigration judge determined that he was incompetent of defending himself.
For those detained for immigration violations and not suspected of any other crimes, the court is not required to appoint council in their defense. In Franco’s case, since he had no representation and was not fit to defend himself in court, he was returned to jail where he spent five years.
Unable to afford an attorney, and unable to represent themselves, hundreds, if not thousands of mentally disabled immigrants are facing unfair treatment in court.
These are yet another example of the deplorable treatment of unauthorized immigrants in detention. Just two years ago, stories were surfacing about the unacceptable medical treatment the detained immigrants received, some even resulting in death. In other cases, immigrants were held longer than necessary after their paperwork was lost. Some spent months, even years, in detention.
In the end, it all points to one thing. The need for immigration reform in the United States.